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Over 200 million metric tons of rare metals found near remote Tokyo island

Over 200 million metric tons of rare metals found near remote Tokyo island
More than 200 million metric tons of manganese nodules rich in rare metals exist on the seabed near Minamitorishima, a remote Tokyo island, the Nippon Foundation and the University of Tokyo said Friday.
The nonprofit organization and the national university discovered a huge amount of the sea-bottom mineral concentrations that abundantly contain rare metals such as cobalt and nickel — both essential for lithium-ion batteries — in a survey that covered an area at depths of some 5,000 meters in the country's exclusive economic zone off the Pacific island.
The research team, led by Yasuhiro Kato, a professor at the university, estimates that there are 234 million metric tons of such nodules in the 100-square-kilometer survey area and that the amount of nickel in them is enough to support Japan's consumption for 75 years while the amount of cobalt is enough for around 11 years.
The volumes are believed to be enough for commercial use, including costs for extraction and refining. The team plans to start extracting 2,500 metric tons of the mineral resource per day in an experimental project by the end of March 2026.
The spherical nodules, which measure up to tens of centimeters in diameter, grow when iron and manganese oxides dissolved in seawater precipitate around their nuclei, like stones and shark teeth. The nodules also contain copper.
The large amount of manganese nodule concentrations were initially discovered during a 2016 survey of the same area conducted by a team that included members from the university and other bodies.
A detailed sampling survey to determine deposit estimates was conducted between late April and early June this year.
"The University of Tokyo has found a wonderful mineral vein in the EEZ of Japan, a resource-poor country," Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa said. "It is necessary to extract them as soon as possible to provide them for industry use."
"It's extremely important to give birth to a new ocean industry in the context of creating innovations," Kato stressed.
Jun 24, 2024 02:26
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