Japanese researchers have discovered a vast deposit of “rare and important” metals on the seabed off the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
According to the Asahi Shimbun, “the cobalt-rich crust forms around rocks on the seabed” in an area of about 950 square kilometers to the East of Tokyo. The deposit is said to hold Iron, Manganese and other rare metals including Platinum and Cobalt.
For Japan, a country notoriously dependent on foreign imports to meet domestic mineral resource needs – ARPN followers may recall the tensions in the wake of China cutting off REE exports to Japan in 2010 – there is hope that finds like these “could possibly allow Japan to secure rare metal resources much closer to home than usual.”
A string of similar discoveries in recent years has set off a flurry of activity by countries trying to gain access to what is considered a “treasure trove of metals and minerals.” We may now only be a few short years away from the first ever attempt to extract minerals from the deep sea, as a Canadian company hopes to begin exploring the bottom of the Bismarck Sea near Papua New Guinea for Copper and Gold with giant remote-controlled bulk cutter robots in 2019.
What once sounded like a chapter from a Jules Verne novel is becoming more and more feasible. Nonetheless, seabed mining efforts are still fraught with many challenges, ranging from environmental concerns over technological challenges to political ownership questions and economic viability. And while it would appear that commercial seabed mining on a grand scale is not a near-term scenario, it looks like the question of “if” we will tap into this “treasure trove” is increasingly becoming a question of “when.”
In the meantime, however, and until all these questions are sufficiently addressed, stakeholders in the U.S. would be well-advised to place an immediate focus on devising policies conducive to unleashing the vast mineral potential we have right beneath our own soil yet fail to harness. Dan McGroarty’s most recent congressional testimony provides some context on why and how we can and must make a comprehensive mineral resource strategy a focal point.