Japan to scour the bottom of the Pacific for rare earth deposits

Scientists from Japan plan to search the floor of the Pacific Ocean for rare earth deposits in bid to reduce the nation's dependence on China for the key industrial materials.

ABC News reports that researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will launch a probe on January 21 which will explore the seabed of waters adjacent to Minamitorishima Island, around 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo.

The new study continues the work of an earlier survey conducted by Professor Yashuiro Kato of Tokyo University, who took samples of mud from the area which indicate that there could be around 6.8 million tonnes of rare earth minerals on the seabed.

Japan is eager to obtain an ample and reliable source of rare earth minerals at present, due to the monopoly on supply enjoyed by China and the flaring of tensions between the two nations in the wake of territorial disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.