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Japan Discovers Large Rare Earth Reserves In EEZ

A team of Japanese scientists claimed to have discovered large reserves of rare earth metals in the country's exclusive economic zone in the Pacific Ocean.

University of Tokyo Professor Yasuhiro Kato on Thursday announced the results of his team's four-year study of mud taken from the 5,600-meter deep seabed in the Pacific Ocean. The mud was found containing high concentrations of dysprosium, used for hybrid car motors, and terbium which is needed for liquid crystal display panels.

The mineral-rich seabed is believed to be at least 1,000-square-kilometers in size and is located near Minami-torishima island, about 2,000 kilometers from Tokyo. The estimated 6.8 million tons of deposits is enough to cover Japan's rare earth metal consumption for 227 years.

According to Japanese media reports, it is for the first time that large rare earth metal reserves have been discovered in Japan's exclusive economic zone. The team will work with Japanese firms to study ways to extract the mineral-rich mud from the deep sea.

Last year, the team found that the Pacific Ocean alone may contain 800 times more rare earth reserves than the total of the earth's land. At present, China produces more than 90 percent of the global output of rare earth metals.

Kato says his team's discovery is significant because Japan can explore rare earth metals on its own. He also says further surveys should start immediately to determine a precise distribution map.

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