Rare-earth metals are crucial in the making of high-tech products such as electric vehicles, mobile phones and batteries, and the world has relied on China for almost all of its rare-earth material. A seabed off of Japan contains more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides, according to the study. That’s equivalent to 780 years’ worth of yttrium supply, 620 years of europium, 420 years of terbium and 730 years of dysprosium
Potential risks of supply shortages for critical metals including rare-earth elements and yttrium (REY) have spurred great interest in commercial mining of deep-sea mineral resources. Deep-sea mud containing over 5,000ppm total REY content was discovered in the western North Pacific Ocean near Minamitorishima Island, Japan, in 2013. This REY-rich mud has great potential as a rare-earth metal resource because of the enormous amount available and its advantageous mineralogical features. Here, we estimated the resource amount in REY-rich mud with Geographical Information System software and established a mineral processing procedure to greatly enhance its economic value. The resource amount was estimated to be 1.2Mt of rare-earth oxide for the most promising area (10^5km2×0–10mbsf), which accounts for 62, 47, 32, and 56 years of annual global demand for Y, Eu, Tb, and Dy, respectively. Moreover, using a hydrocyclone separator enabled us to recover selectively
biogenic calcium phosphate grains, which have high REY content (up to 22,000ppm) and constitute the coarser domain in the grain-size distribution. The enormous resource amount and the effectiveness of the mineral processing are strong indicators that this new REY resource could be exploited in the near future.