Last summer (2012) Japanese industry bought into large deposits of REEs in Canada.
This past January, it bought into large deposits in Jamaica.
In mid-March of this year, it extracted gas from “flammable ice” nearly a mile below the ocean surface off its coast.
In late March, Japanese researchers announced the find of an enormous and concentrated deposit of REEs under the Pacific Ocean from the seabed near Minamitori Island, some 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo.
Samples taken from 5,800 meters contained REE samples that could be 20 to 30 times more concentrated than reserves in China, the current source of 90% of the world’s REEs.
Scientists estimate the seabed contains about 6.8 million tons of REEs, the amount consumed in 220 to 230 years worth of industrial production in Japan.
“Rare earths are necessary for cutting-edge technologies. Japan faces an urgent task to secure stable supplies,” said researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo.
Manufacturers need the elements for wind turbines, hybrid car engines, IPods, Smart Phones and other consumer and industrial products.
Knowing full well the vital role the REEs play in world manufacturing, Beijing restricts their export, particularly in times of tension.
In 2010, the Chinese completely cut off the US supply because US manufacturers claim the Chinese unfairly subsidize their renewable energy industry.
Sources: Smart Planet Daily, March 21, 2013 AFP news agency, Tokyo, March 20, 2013