Photo: Wikimedia Commons
More proof that so-called rare earth elements aren’t that rare.A team of scientists from Japan are announcing today the discovery of the rare earth mother lode in the Pacific Ocean.
According to a report by Nikkei, the deposits — which are all around Hawaii, as well as French Polynesia — dwarf anything on land to the tune of 1000x.
And it’s not necessarily a fanciful notion that the deposits could be mind:
Extracting the deposits requires pumping up portions of the ocean floor. The rare-earth metals can be separated out in several hours. But carrying out such operations in international waters requires the approval of the International Seabed Authority, established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Japanese research team will apply to the authority to have the areas certified for mining. If approval is granted, they would be divvied up for development by different countries.
Not surprisingly, others are sceptical that this could be commercially viable. One analyst from Illinois, quoted by the British journal Nature, is downplaying the find, claiming that mining this lode is only a bit easier than mining form, say, the moon.
Regardless, the bottom line with rare earths — actually, a lot of commodities, including boring old oil — is that there’s a ton of it out there, it’s just a matter of what it costs to get it, and what kind of environmental concerns you’re willing to toss out.