AFP: Japan ‘Rare Earth’ Haul Sparks Hopes of Cutting China Reliance
Scientifically intriguing but economically insignificant in near-term
In April 2018, Adamas Intelligence spoke with AFP about the significance of a rare earth discovery in deep-sea mud off the coast of Japan’s Minami-Tori-shima island.
The deposit is estimated to host approximately 16 million tonnes of rare earth oxides in-situ but the grade of the mineralized mud is one to two orders of magnitude lower than conventional terrestrial deposits, and the mud is located at a depth of over 5,000 meters, calling its feasibility into question.
Some key points emphasized during our communication:
- Based on the information available to-date, our view is that the discovery is irrelevant in the near-term but could become a strategic asset many decades in the future as the global rare earth market continues to grow and undersea mining technologies evolve.
- Producing saleable rare earth products is a relatively costly and technically challenging process. On land, mining is the lowest-cost and most environmentally-benign part of this process so, without additional information, we struggle to see how moving the mining activities into the sea will offer any upside – economically or otherwise.
- In the past few years, Japan has already made great strides in reducing its reliance on China for rare earth elements through its relationship with Australian miner Lynas Corporation. In the coming years, we believe Lynas could significantly increase its rare earth production to support Japanese demand growth for a much smaller capital investment than development of an offshore mine.
Read more about what was discussed in this recent article on Physics.org.Back to overview