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Hundreds of years' worth of rare earths found in Japan territory

Deposits near remote island could ease global dependence on China

A researcher examines a sample taken from the seabed south of Minami-Tori-shima island, about 1,900km southeast of Tokyo. (Courtesy of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology)

TOKYO -- Japanese researchers have found more than 16 million tons of rare-earth deposits, equivalent to a few hundred years of global consumption, under the seabed near the island of Minami-Torishima, about 1,900km southeast of Tokyo.

The research team, led by Yutaro Takaya, an instructor at Waseda University, and Professor Yasuhiro Kato of the University of Tokyo, published detailed findings on the size of the deposits for the first time on Tuesday in Scientific Reports, a U.K. online scientific journal. They also said they had come up with the technology to allow the resources to be extracted efficiently. The researchers plan to work with private companies to recover the rare earths.

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