Japan looks 6,000 meters under the sea for rare earths to counter China, report says

Japan is looking 6,000 meters under the sea for rare earths to counter China’s dominance of the critical minerals that are used in everything from smartphones to weapons, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

The government intends to start developing the methods necessary to extract the elements near the Ogasawara islands in the fiscal year beginning in April, and aims to begin prospecting within five years, the newspaper reported, citing unidentified officials.

The exploration will deploy technology tested off the coast of Ibaraki prefecture in August and September, where the deep-sea drilling vessel “Chikyu” was able to pump about 70 tons of mud per day for sifting, according to the report. Japan wants private companies to be able to enter the market from fiscal 2028.

China controls most of the world’s mined output of rare earths, a broad group of 17 elements, and has a stranglehold over processing. While the minerals are relatively abundant, concentrated deposits that are economic to mine are scarce. – BLOOMBERG