Saturday, January 08, 2011

Japan to seek rare earth minerals under the sea using robots

With China cutting its export quota of rare earth materials by 35% in the first half of the year, heavy consumers of the precious minerals like Japan are looking for other sources to sustain manufacturing batteries, cellphones, hybrid cars and liquid crystal display televisions.
A country with meager natural resources, Japan will venture the deep seas to harvest the highly prized minerals and other precious metals such as gold and silver using remote controlled-robots within the archipelago, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Friday.
The Japan Oil, Gas and Metal National Corp (JOGMEC), a government-backed corporation, is planning to deploy robots in the abyss down to 2,000 meters (6,600 feet).
The newspaper added that Japanese scientists believe that as some minerals become low in supply, exploring the undersea world and harvesting them up will become achievable despite enormous challenges that lie ahead.
It was also mentioned that the JOGMEC project will target the seabed volcanoes that are known to release minerals. They are found near the Izu and Ogasawara island chain, south of Tokyo, and the South western Okinawa islands.
The estimated cost of the project is 30 billion yen (US$360 million) and is expected to start production after 10 years or so.
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