Rare-earth metals essential to many leading-edge technologies has been discovered in the Pacific Ocean.
Yttrium (REY) has been found in extremely high grades of deep sea mud around Minamitorishima Island, located in Japan’s exclusive economic waters.
Researchers have mapped a vast reserve of the deep-sea mud, with more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides discovered, a “semi-infinite basis” with the equivalent of 780 years’ worth of yttrium supply, according to a recent study by scientific journal Nature.
The unique chemical properties of REY can be used to make a wide range of technologies, including hybrid vehicles, rechargeable batteries, wind turbines, compact florescent lamps, screen display panels, many medical and military technologies.
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The industrial use of REY especially in renewable energy technologies and electronics subsequently has driven strong demand for the essential metals.
Japan’s discovery of the deep-sea mud in 2013, has great potential as a rare-earth resource because of the enormous amount available. Enough to supply global demand on a “semi-infinite basis.”
Widely distributed on the Pacific Ocean’s deep sea-floor, mineral resources such as these, have spurred strong interest in deep-sea commercial mining. Potential risks of supply shortages for critical metals, rare-earth elements and REY have caused increasing global demand for REY.
REY-rich mud has several advantages, such as high rare earth element content, a scarcity of radioactive elements (U and T), and easy extraction and recovery.
According to the study, the findings have “tremendous potential” to be a source of rare-earth elements.
Perhaps what vibranium is to the fictitious futuristic city of Wakanda — as depicted in the hugely successful Black Panther film — REY is to Earth.