The Jamaican government has announced the discovery of an abundance of rare earth minerals in its soil by a team of Japanese scientists.
AP reports that Philip Paulwell, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining, has informed Jamaica's parliament that Japanese researchers had found "high concentrations of rare-earth elements" in the Carribean country's red mud.
The team of researchers from Japan's Nippon Light Metal Co. believe that extraction of the rare earth minerals from the red bauxite residue is feasible, and could provide a major boon to the Jamaican economy.
OECD countries are currently striving to find alternative sources of rare earth metals, which are indispensable ingredients for a broad swathe of hi-tech devices such as smart phones, wind generators and guided missiles.
China has a stranglehold on the rare earth sector, accounting for over 90% of global supply and leaving other economies highly vulnerable to any capricious changes to the Middle Kingdom's export policies.
Paulwell believes the discovery of the rare earth minerals could radically improve the economic well-being of the small Caribbean nation:
We are at the starting line of an opportunity that has the potential to redefine Jamaica's economic prospects in a positive way…the government of Jamaica perceives the extraction of the rare-earth elements that are present in Jamaica to be an exciting new opportunity to earn much needed foreign exchange and create jobs
Nippon Light Metal has already agreed to put up $3 million in investment funds for buildings and equipment for the pilot project and bear operating costs, with any rare elements produced to be divvied up between the Japanese company and Jamaica.