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Japanese Team Finds New Source of Rare Earth Elements

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the who-the-hell-is-julian-simon? dept.

China 215

gyaku_zuki writes "As reported in the BBC, a Japanese survey team has discovered 'vast' quantities of rare earths in international waters in the Pacific Ocean. The search for alternative sources of these expensive elements (used in common consumer electronics including mobile phones) was intensified recently after a territory dispute with China, which produces more than 90% of the world's rare earths, resulted in China blocking export to Japan."

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215 comments

So... (0)

Barrinmw (1791848) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655650)

...let's dredge the ocean floor, history has shown us that has zero ecological impact :rollseyes:

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655672)

Alternatively, let's put our technological well-being in the hands of a country that has shown little compunction in using its dominance to screw with any other country that gets in its way.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655674)

You're talking about the US, right?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655814)

Well, if you dislike the US being a bully, you'd also dislike China being a bully. Though from your response it seems your problem is not with any country being a bully, but rather plain anti-US sentiment.

Re:So... (-1, Flamebait)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655846)

Cyber-attacks and human-rights violations might be hideous, but they're still incomparable to starting 3 wars.

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655964)

3rd war being Libya I presume? Perhaps you'd have a word with England and France. France most of all, since it's never pulled its dirty hands out of Africa.

And regarding human-rights violations -- deaths are deaths, be they your own or others. A genuinely moral person would find it all equally hideous. But not you, of course.

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656076)

Cyber-attacks and human-rights violations might be hideous, but they're still incomparable to starting 3 wars.

No, no, no. The US is smart enough not to declare war on sovereign nations these days, only abstract concepts (drugs, terror, piracy whatever). I don't remember any declaration of war against Iraq, for example.

Re:So... (2)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656508)

I said "starting 3 wars", not "declaring 3 wars". USA last declared war in 1942, and has started at least two dozen wars since then.

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656086)

As Woodrow Wilson warned, there is a military-industrial complex. It demands blood and souls. Otherwise it starves and takes the economy down with it. Of course that's not the nature of the economy. A long time ago, the economy was rooted in manufacturing and tangible goods. Not so much now. Now it's all IP, marketing, and arms. The biggest of these is arms. We have put all of our eggs in this one basket. We will sacrifice the flower of our youth to die horrible deaths in some third-world shithole that was never a threat to us, in the holy name of fighting terrorism or building nations. It is the international version of "to protect the children".

The few at the top who benefit from this not only have to keep people stupid and mindlessly patriotic, they also have to keep them in a lower state of consciousness. Anything less than that and they would wake up and question what they are supporting. You think it's about money and physical force. Yes it involves those things, but most of all it is about consciousness. Otherwise the masters would quickly become reminded of the fact that we outnumber them by tens of thousands to one. Mindless patriotism means you support your government no matter how wrong it is, to save national face. Real patriotism means you support your country at all times and your government only on those rare occasions when it does the right thing and really deserves your support.

Just keep telling our youth that they are somehow "protecting America" by going over to some third-world shithole that would never stand a chance of threatening us in any meaningful way and killing a bunch of brown people because the propaganda machine told them it was a good idea. Long as we make more battleships and fighter jets and fantastic super-weapons to keep the phony fiat dollars flowing. That's what really matters. Right?

To all non-Americans, I am so sorry that we are exporting both our way of life and that you are willingly importing it, lured by promises of being the next important player on the world stage. There is no world stage. There are only empty promises. You live in peace or you are unfit for life on Earth. It is that simple.

Re:So... (5, Informative)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656166)

As Woodrow Wilson warned, there is a military-industrial complex.

Wilson helped create the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower is the one who warned about it.

Re:So... (3, Informative)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656580)

After all, the PRC has never fought a war, and they certainly never make aggressive moves against India, Russia, Japan, the legitimate Chinese government, the Philippines, Vietnam...

Re:So... (1, Flamebait)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655888)

He could just as well be talking about every major country in Europe.

Re:So... (1)

Bratmon (1649855) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656292)

He could just as well be talking about every major country.

FTFY

Re:So... (0)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656480)

You're right, but we all know where these down-voting mods are from ;) They up-vote the ones that rightly criticize the US, but can't handle the greater truth.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656446)

Yes. Do you want a high-five for getting the point?

Re:So... (3, Interesting)

alexborges (313924) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656520)

Im from a country fucked by the US in a regular basis and well, I do prefer to be subsidiary to country that at least says its democratic or, even if some of its citizens dont like it, has people that *can* say they WANT to be democratic as opposed to what they have...

At least its press will eventually get around to showing shit at abu garib and gitmo... What if it was China instead? You would never know anything. You would either conform or spend years at reeducation camps if not with a bullet in your head.

Fuck that.

Its bad enough as it is...

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655684)

Why don't you do it the American way? Those poor chinese are enslaved by a horrible dictatorship that owns (real) weapons of mass destruction!

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655732)

Funny story: it's "illegal" to have a direct shootin' war with another nuclear power, of which China has been since the 60s.

So yeah, watch out, or the World Police will show up and give both countries a ticket.

Re:So... (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655812)

I thought America was the world police...or at least trying to be.

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656124)

To be police they would have to always follow the majority even when they don't agree with their orders: no nation does this and I doubt one ever will.

I think you meant vigilanteism.

The UN is the one trying to police the world; we* made it to promote - and enforce - peace. Whether they're succeeding or not a different question.

* 'Us and you' we; neither 'us' we nor 'you' we. I wish English had separate words for those.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656372)

The UN's always calls in sick whenever a criminal appears.

Re:So... (3, Informative)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656528)

Alternatively, let's put our technological well-being in the hands of a country that has shown little compunction in using its dominance to screw with any other country that gets in its way.

TFA stated that:

China's apparent monopoly of rare earth production enabled it to restrain supply last year during a territorial dispute with Japan.

but omitted the fact that that "monopoly" had been created and sustained by undercutting the prices of other sources, not by being the only possible source. There are plenty of sources for rare earth elements with proven production capacities that will be available when China inevitably restricts exports or raises prices. The ocean floor is just another possibility, but one where the costs are not yet known.

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655680)

The oceans are bigger than you think. The article notes that 1 square kilometer would be enough for 20% of the world's rare earth element usage. 5 square kilometers per year being dredged is nothing compared to an ocean that has hundreds of millions of square kilometers.

Definition of terms (0)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655868)

How can you have "vast" quantities of "rare" earths?

Re:Definition of terms (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655908)

How can you have "vast" quantities of "rare" earths?

Buried in the article is also a note stating these same scientists propose changing the generic term to "common" earths.

Bump :Definition of terms (1)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655980)

To paraphrase a comment I read on this :

In the mining industry there is possibly two words for those rare metal deposit : ore, and dirt.

Ore is the state where you can collect it for less than the market price and make a benefit.

Dirt is the other one, aka 5 km deep underwater where the cost of recovering it TODAY would WAY exceed the possible ore value.

N.B. : IANADSM (I Am Not A Deep Sea Miner)

Re:Definition of terms (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656110)

Marketing to drive the price up; "Green"land is covered with ice (well, more than it has now), "Little" John was a giant and Brienne the Beauty really wasn't, except for lovely blue eyes.

Re:So... (0)

arunce (1934350) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656064)

So they say. I don't believe there's such abundance.

Re:So... (5, Interesting)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656648)

Rare earths are not rare. It was a horrible, horrible mistake to call them rare. Some of the elements in that family are more abundant than copper. They were coined 'rare' because as far as metals go, they are quite reactive, which makes them great for batteries, but also means they don't have much time to bond with eachother...which makes them great FOR BATTERIES! In essence, you do not find chunks of Cerium just laying around like you do, or did in some cases, as iron and boxite (aluminum) and copper. Thus they are usually found as minor, but significant, traces in other minerals and not all by themselves or as significant ores.

The largest mines prior to the mid 90s were located in the United States in Oregon, Brazil, and South Africa. There were literally Indiana Jones like warehouses full of 'rare earths' that were unneeded because the chemical properties of this family mean they are not found in huge chunks, but rather spread out in a given area. If you are digging for Lanthanum, for example, you'll end up with 'worthless' Neodymium and other metals. Prior to the mid-90s, these elements would often flip flop on the market as mines started pulling out different metals (Scandium vs Yttrium and Neodymium vs. Iridium)

China undercut global demand for the metals 20 years ago, and the World hasn't looked back since. It was an arrangement of convenience, as China started pulling out the damn stuff faster than the world could 'spend it.' No longer did lamp makers and battery manufacturers have to worry about ridiculous future contracts for rare earths. Prices stabilized quite dramatically, and the Wold loved it. China got a huge boost to a nascent technological and manufacturing industries due to the flood of foreign investment, as well as first dips on cheap metals.

The minute the so called 'Peak Earth' hits, and rare earths spike on the market because they have all 'disappeared', mines across the Globe will open up once again since it will be cost effective to sell the damn things.

So no, it will not be commercially viable to dig these elements out of the ocean floor for many many years. Keep in mind, the ocean floor is also full of gold nuggets, and the ocean itself as a vast amount of gold in solution. But just as it wouldn't be worth it to fly to the Moon where it made of gold, it isn't worth it to go panning for the stuff 1km below the ocean surface.

Anyway, 2.5 cents.

this is jap and they stil do whaling! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655730)

this is jap and they stil do whaling!

Re:So... (1, Troll)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655822)

Dredging at a depth of two or three miles has an impact on anything we care about? The critters down there aren't even edible and don't impact the biosphere like surface plankton, who gives a shit?

Re:So... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655968)

Dredging at a depth of two or three miles has an impact on anything we care about? The critters down there aren't even edible and don't impact the biosphere like surface plankton, who gives a shit?

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss [imdb.com], the abyss gazes also into you."

Nietzsche

Appropriate at several levels.

Re:So... (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656052)

I would expect that the "monsters" (e.g. giant squid) would be smart enough to leave any dredging area in a big hurry. True story, at a prominent national lab a large sum of money was spent to make a habitat for an on-site family of whooping cranes, as part of the land they ranged was going to be impacted by new construction. As the construction to make their new home commenced, the cranes went "whooooop, whoooop whoooooop" like Curly from the three stooges (that might be slight embellishment), and flapped away never to be seen again, rendering the whole "wetlands mitigation" project yet another exercise in government waste and enviro-nazi stupidity.

Re:So... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656126)

Wrong monsters. Let's try again: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Re:So... (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656216)

" I have combined the DNA of the world's most evil animals to make the most evil creature of them all."

...

"It turns out it's man!"

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656396)

*hazy super muscular figure climbs out of the vat, details hidden by the haze*

"CARROT TOP!? Nooooooooooooooooooooo! WHAT HAVE I DONE?!"

Re:So... (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656604)

"man is the measure", I'm perfectly happy to kill a small amount of some creatures to make things good for mankind. You live in a building where worms and cicadas died when the foundation was dug. That's reality.

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655880)

most modern windmills and solar cells need rare earth metals for their fabrication. so pick one, 'clean' energy or reduced environmental damage caused by mineing. you can't have both.

Re:So... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655982)

But...but...that's not what the tree hugger hippie environmentalists tell me!! We can have our pollution free utopia AND have all the power we want!!

Re:So... (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656564)

You damn well can have both.

It's called "nuclear energy". The volume of fuel required is low, so you reduce mining damage. The energy output is nice and clean, and you can reuse waste in appropriately designed reactors. Don't put it on a major fault line near a gigantic body of water, and you're good to go.

Re:So... (1, Insightful)

crdotson (224356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655906)

So... let's never do anything, since it could have some ecological impact. :rollseyes:

I mean, the mindset that anything humans do is, by default, evil to the environment is annoying. Dredging the ocean floor might be awful for the environment -- or it might be the most environmentally friendly way to obtain these materials that we need for a modern lifestyle. I don't know the answer without doing some research, but I'm willing to bet quite a bit that you didn't know the answer before posting your kneejerk comment. Having posted my own kneejerk comment, I will now go look it up. :)

Re:So... (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655990)

Your attitude is annoying. There's plenty we can and do do without catastrophically damaging our environment. The standard is "could it have some ecological impact". If it were, we'd be a lot better off. Instead it's "will this instantly kill us", and if it takes a little longer or just makes us sick, it's OK.

5% cheaper earbuds for you is not worth trashing millions of cubic meters of ocean. Your selfish obsession does not outweigh the nature that we share the planet with.

But at least you admitted that you're just kneejerking without knowing what you're talking about. Next time it would be better for you to have some knowledge before you talked like you did.

Re:So... (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656146)

There's plenty we can and do do without catastrophically damaging our environment.

Yep. Like deep-sea mining for rare earths.

5% cheaper earbuds for you is not worth trashing millions of cubic meters of ocean.

Your attitude is annoying.

Decision Time: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656248)

"5% cheaper earbuds for you is not worth trashing millions of cubic meters of ocean."

The more powerful magnets and better batteries needed to switch over to nonhydroelectric renewable evergy sources use those very same rare earths. In large quantities compared to ear buds. Ditto more energy efficient motors.

So, by never mining any of them, you help keep everyone chained to other sources.

Your choice, bub.

Re:So... (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656080)

Depending on your point of view, anything done by certain types of organisms are evil. Heck, look at the great oxygen catastrophe, when all those early photosynthesising organisms began shitting massive amounts of O2 into the atmosphere and created possibly the most substantial massive extinction in the history of the world.

I'm not saying we should go around throwing radioactive or toxic waste around, but there's a balancing act to be had unless you want a major population crash and the remnant population to live like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago. Get much closer in that in time to us, and well our ancestors develop agriculture, which began a process of slash-and-burn to ecosystems that permanently altered many places on earth.

makes sense (1, Funny)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655690)

The elements are probably down there because we've been dumping all our e-Waste into the ocean. We could probably just build a drilling platform on that texas-sized mass of plastic floating out there and start raking in the dough.

Re:makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655942)

it's not physically rigid, it's like a bunch of plastic particulates floating about 1/8th of an inch thick.

Re:makes sense (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655970)

Indeed, more like shopping bag soup than the vast unconquered plastic continent that I imagined when I first heard about it.

Re:makes sense (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655950)

That doesn't compute. The amounts just don't make sense - if 5 square miles could provide enough for a year's use, then we'd have to be dumping several billion tons of rare-earth metals every year. Since we only dump less than 100 million tons annually, and most of that (by mass) is plastics or common metals, there's no way we can be causing this. Contributing, perhaps, but not causing.

From what I can tell (I'm nowhere near an expert, could be completely wrong here), rare-earth elements seem most common in newer mountain ranges. So they're probably being slowly eroded over time, eventually pooling in the oceans. Since the Pacific is a very tectonically active ocean, it's also possible that it's being pushed up from lower in the Earth's crust. That's what I would guess, but I could be wrong.

Re:makes sense (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656194)

Since the Pacific is a very tectonically active ocean, it's also possible that it's being pushed up from lower in the Earth's crust. That's what I would guess, but I could be wrong.

You aren't.

Re:makes sense (1)

sidyan (110067) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656314)

Last time I checked, the Pacific [wikipedia.org] was shrinking [wikipedia.org]; You might be confusing it with the Atlantic [wikipedia.org] and its mid-oceanic ridge [wikipedia.org].

Of course, over a sufficient timespan, your argument might hold water (or rare earth elements); Then again, with enough time it'd apply to every centimeter of the Earth's surface.

SO SUCK IT CHINA !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655714)

USA !!
USA !!
USA !!

Did they find red herring too? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655722)

China only has "90%" of the world's production because they were able to undersell and close suppliers outside China. As China restricts exports, the price climbs and the suppliers outside China resume business.

Media and some politicians have been spinning this one as if China holds 90% or somesuch assnumber of the world's resource. Is that still going on? I know it took BBC two weeks to wake up to that one.

Re:Did they find red herring too? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656218)

While you are close, you are not quite correct. China has 90% of world supply because of

  1. very little environmental regulation
  2. low wages
  3. reasonably low power costs

The price for rare earths is much lower in the mainland China than outside. This is being used as leverage to get high tech businesses out of Japan and US and other places into China proper. The cap on exports is another subsidy that China provides for locals.

External sources cannot simply "turn on" the faucet and here come rare earths. It takes up to 3-4 years for even former productions sites to resume.

Re:Did they find red herring too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656234)

they were able to undersell

It takes two to tango. They were able to undersell because the nations they undersold failed to protect their native suppliers.

Indeed, rare earths are abundant elsewhere (5, Informative)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656256)

China does not by any means have a lock on rare earth production [wikipedia.org], with wikipedia reporting the following:

China now produces over 97% of the world's rare earth supply, mostly in Inner Mongolia, even though it has only 37% of proven reserves.

There are two things going on here:

  1. China's paucity of environmental considerations in resource extraction
  2. Cheapness of transport (electronics factories using rare earths are closer to Inner Mongolia than mines in South America)
  3. High mining know-how of Chinese
  4. High availability of cheap chinese labor

On #1 -- Indeed mining for rare earths in the US is expensive because of workplace and environmental health regulations, but it can be had for some price. If China restricts supply, price will rise and US mines can reopen while meeting rigorous US standards for environmental sustainability of rare-earth mining operations.

On #2 -- if China wants to restrict supply, that's fine -- but they're own factories are probably close to the world's largest users of rare earths for electronics. So it's not as if we won't be able to get our iPods.

Re:Indeed, rare earths are abundant elsewhere (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656590)

Actually #2 is a concern. China's caps include some finish goods. Several industries that requires rare earth components are suffering shortages. While things like iPods aren't on the list things like high efficiency fluorescent lighting ballasts are.

I forget but the USA does have something like 25% of the proven reserves as well. China tariffs rare earth elements two things will/are happen. The USA will start to reopen our mines, and with the price of gas, and cross ocean shipping some mostly automated manufacturing lines will return as well.

China only took the manufacturing because the cost of labor, materials and shipping it was cheaper than paying American's to do the same task. With increases in Materials, and Shipping and slowly Labor too, it is beginning to make sense to bring manufactuing back. The advantage being it will be highly automated, and high tech.

I think the problem is the name (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656440)

People hear "rare" and they think there must not be much of them. Well rare earths, aren't. I mean they are rare as opposed to, say, iron or silicon or aluminium, but they are not rare as in "very hard to find."

As the parent said, China produces most of them because they do it the cheapest. The US (and other countries) produced them in the past and can do so again in the future.

Now these under water deposits might be of interest because it sounds like they may be easier to process than what we have now. That could be useful. Even though the extraction will probably be more costly, if the refining and processing is cheaper, that could make them worth while.

However these are not something that is rare, contrary to the name.

Re:Did they find red herring too? (2)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656612)

China only has "90%" of the world's production because they were able to undersell and close suppliers outside China. As China restricts exports, the price climbs and the suppliers outside China resume business.

The problem is shutting down and resuming supply takes time and costs money. So unless there are huge stockpiles kept somewhere then export restrictions by the main producer of a commodity will lead to shortages.

And if the main producer wants to be really evil they can restrict exports for a while then as soon as other sources start up they can resume exports and crash the market. Repeat the cycle a few times and they can make it very difficult for anyone outside their country to have a reliable and economic supply thus handing a huge advantage to manufacturing in their own country..

Where or where.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655740)

is the Glomar Explorer when we need it?

Re:Where or where.. (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655960)

is the Glomar Explorer when we need it?

That was manganese nodules *cough* nuclear submarine *cough* that they were after.

Just because it's there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655750)

The problem is that the concentration of rare earths are not enough to be economically viable.

These ocean deposits are about 1,000 to 2,000 ppm which is about the same as the red sludge that was spilt in Hungary last year.

It's deep (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655758)

it says the depth of this find is between 11,000 and 15,000 feet (3,500-6,000 meters). I'm not sure a mining operation at that depth is feasible, or at least, cost effective.

Re:It's deep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656356)

it says the depth of this find is between 11,000 and 15,000 feet (3,500-6,000 meters). I'm not sure a mining operation at that depth is feasible, or at least, cost effective.

Why not? They were drilling for oil on the ocean floor in The Abyss, and that was over 20 years ago. This should be no problem given how much technology has advanced since then.

International waters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655772)

the Great Pirate Era Begins!!

Useless, These Are Abundant (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655794)

This is silly rare earths are not rare, just toxic to refine from ore.

China has the market cornered because they don't give a shit that they dump toxic sludge doing it.

Re:Useless, These Are Abundant (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656136)

Probably true,

And they probably also do not care about massive surface mining operations,
terrible working conditions, evacuation of farm lands and villages,
as they conveniently have no freedom of speech.

No problem. Build the Glomar Explorer II (2)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655806)

Can't be that much different than deep-sea cobalt nugget mining. Howard Hughes was all over that.

Never mind. That was actually a really cool ruse to raise a sunken Soviet nuclear sub. I can't believe it's not a movie, yet.

Re:No problem. Build the Glomar Explorer II (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655838)

It is remarkable they haven't made a film yet. I suppose the fact that it ended so badly doesn't help though...

Re:No problem. Build the Glomar Explorer II (2)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656012)

the fact that it ended so badly doesn't help though...

That's what they want you to think! :-)

Actually, much like the Apollo program, the Glomar project spun off all sorts of serious engineering benefits on the side. They had to invent a lot of tools and techniques to even consider attempting that retrieval. Quite the undertaking.

Re:No problem. Build the Glomar Explorer II (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655940)

Can't be that much different than deep-sea cobalt nugget mining. Howard Hughes was all over that.

Never mind. That was actually a really cool ruse to raise a sunken Soviet nuclear sub. I can't believe it's not a movie, yet.

it was manganese, actually.

http://www.pbs.org/saf/1305/features/ship2.htm

First one with a flag (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655810)

So does the country who can get their flag down there first get to stake their claim on the deposits?

The graphic thingie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36655836)

Slashdot stories get a little icon. The icon for this story is the great wall of China. Not exactly Japanese.

OTOH, the Chinese caused everyone else in the world to go looking for rare earth elements by cutting off the supply. Rare earth elements aren't particularly rare. They are quite expensive to process though so production moved to China to take advantage of cheap labor and lax environmental standards. The result of the Chinese embargo is that our rare earth production facilities are starting up again.

Or, Japan finds gigatonnes of mud! (3, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655848)

Or, as The Register reports, [theregister.co.uk] Japan has found gigatonnes of mud in the deep ocean....

There are rare elements in your back garden. Japan has found some under the sea. But the concentration they've found still means having to dig thousands of tonnes of mud up from the deep ocean and run it through millions of gallons of acid and other toxic chemicals to separate the rare earths from the common minerals. Could be costly. China's angle is that they have them on land and in places they can dig them out with JCBs rather than specialised deep sea equipment. Good luck on Japan but it sounds like it won't be cheap...

Re:Or, Japan finds gigatonnes of mud! (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656266)

Necessity is a mother. If there's anyone who can make it profitable, it's the Japs.

Coincidence? Maybe. (0)

sehlat (180760) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655910)

China is working on a blue water navy. [india.com] Article is dated Sunday, April 18, 2010

Re:Coincidence? Maybe. (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656016)

China is working on a blue water navy. [india.com] Article is dated Sunday, April 18, 2010

China has been, and will be, developing a blue water navy. They're in no position to threaten the US at the moment and show no inclination to do so at any rate. So your point is exactly what? That the Chinese will risk a major confrontation with the rest of the world for rare earths? Righto. Best to loosen the tinfoil a bit.

Rare earths aren't particularly rare, they are just present in such low concentrations that they are expensive (and environmentally problematic) to mine. If the cost goes up a bit, there will be many other sources of rare earths developed. The short term issue is that developing such sources takes time and China has much of the current supply spoken for. However, these new Japanese discoveries will not come on line in the near future - they will take an enormous investment to get to the surface. So they will be of little help to the rest of the world. They do offer Japan a potentially home grown supply and they may find it advantageous to spend the time and considerable money working out the problems of hauling large amounts of muck out of an abyssal plain. Everyone else, not so much.

Environmental Concerns? (0)

It's the tripnaut! (687402) | more than 2 years ago | (#36655914)

Given the fact that they would need to dredge deep oceans to mine rare earths, the potential environmental damage to marine ecosystems (that are not even fully understood) will probably be not worth any amount of mineral yield.

Re:Environmental Concerns? (0)

LesFerg (452838) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656254)

Well their scientists have shown great concern over killing off the whales, why should this be different?
After all they spent huge amounts of resources going out there to fire harpoons into whales so that they could do some scientific research on them afterwards. I think the research went along the lines of "... hmm. it looks dead".

U.N. Controls this... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656084)

The sea floor of international waters is controlled by the U.N. They set a tax on mining of 90% on assessed value mined... so, minerals obtained from known sources would be cheep at twice the price when compared to mining the sea floor.

Sounded great until (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656112)

I was really excited with this one when I first read it then the reality set in. They are going to have to effectively strip mine the ocean floor then use acid to process the soil. What happens to the toxic waste and the ocean floor? Before everyone starts saying we have to and we have no choice I'm not saying to not do it just can we take a second and do it responsibly for once? The problem comes in when the corporations try to save a buck and cut costs by dumping the toxic waste right back in the water. Also rather than strip mining every square inch of an area can we please do it in bands or grids so the ocean floor has a chance to recover similar to selective cutting trees? And no the ocean floor isn't dead anymore than soil is lifeless. It's part of the whole ecosystem and should be preserved. The rare earth minerals aren't needed for life to exist so there's no reason to not remove them just do it responsibly so we have an ocean left when they are done. This isn't about making things cheaper for people it's about squeezing out extra profits for the rich owners.

Thank You SENSEI OBVIOUS!!!!!..... (4, Insightful)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 2 years ago | (#36656552)

JESUS H. CHRIST WITH A CHERRY ON TOP!

THIS HAS BEEN KNOWN FOR *DECADES*!!!!!

Geologists have know for decades that the oceans contain a vast quantity of minerals, including rare earths. The Glomar Explorer, for example was built to secretly salvage a sunken Soviet submarine. However, a realistic cover story was needed, so the Government settled on saying that it was a ship designed to recover manganese nodules (which contain a smorgasboard of minerals and rare earths, in addition to high concentrations of manganese, hence the name) that cover the ocean floor.

The plausibility of the story rested in the fact that there *DO* exist extremely vast sources of minerals (including rare earths) on the sea floor.

Honest to God, why do highly educated and credentialed people keep overlooking things that have been known for a years?!

This should be grounds for revoking their credentials until they go back to school..... again.

I can already see the next "discovery" headline:

"Japanese researchers discover rotting fish stinks!"

Bose-condensation of japaneese rare earths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36656584)

That's from Fukushima!
Now they are going to Bose-condense that elements http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.0107 and, probably, make a nuclear winter with that

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