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Japan finds rare earth materials that could lower the cost of electronics

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Japan finds rare earth materials that could lower the cost of electronics
Rare earth materials are an essential part of modern electronics, including our favorite tablets and smartphones. The trouble has been that for about the last two decades, China has held the vast majority of these materials, which has led to high costs. But, Japan has now found large deposits of rare earth materials in the ocean, and may use this new find to bring down costs.

Japan finds rare earth materials that could lower the cost of electronics
The find was made by professor Yasuhiro Kato and his team from Tokyo University in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone around the island of Minami-Torishima. The materials were found in deep-sea mud at 5,700 meters below sea level; and despite the depth, the deposits can be extracted fairly easily using pressurized air. Professor Kato said a single ship drilling in the zone could supply Japan's needs for a year, and break strategic dependence on China. "We don't need to mine it intensively. All we need is enough to force China to lower its prices."

This is especially important because while other countries like the US and Australia have been increasing production of the seventeen rare earth elements, China still controls the heavier metals such as dysprosium, terbium, europium, and ytterbium. Making the situation worse, China began to restrict exports in 2009, and forced companies to build factories in China. 

In addition to mobile electronics, these rare earth materials are used in electronics including car parts, TVs, lasers, low-energy lightbulbs, and various military equipment and weapons. 

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posted on 25 Mar 2013, 18:32 23

1. Captain_Doug (Posts: 748; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


Great. This should really be a great thing.

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 18:33 13

2. smallworld (Posts: 436; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)


Japan > all

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 20:32 7

11. jsdechavez (Posts: 701; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


Well, I praise the Japanese for this effort to have China lower its rates. Us, consumers, will benefit most from this - cheaper devices!! Nothing wrong with that.

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 21:07

16. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)


It's human nature for its acts

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 21:04 2

13. belovedson (Posts: 832; Member since: 30 Nov 2010)


i hope your not an american. if you are, you are spoiled rotten.

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 11:41

28. smallworld (Posts: 436; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)


Thank God! I'm not.

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 01:50 5

26. Nikolas.Oliver (banned) (Posts: 1574; Member since: 01 Jul 2012)


Japan is much better than China, Chinese people aren't civilized and rude they like to yell at each other ... If you go to a restaurant and speak English people there won't serve you

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 18:35 6

3. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1228; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


Power of supply and demand...

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 20:59

12. 305Bucko (Posts: 506; Member since: 07 Aug 2011)


I have a question... if its "rare"... doesnt that mean that it is not abundant and therefore not a good choice for mass production?

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 22:16

18. p0rkguy (Posts: 683; Member since: 23 Nov 2010)


Here's an easier explanation.
I'm buying bulks of raw material from you for $.10 each. Let's say you gain $1mil/y in profit from my purchases.
I recently discover a new material that allows me to do the same as your material but the whole process of labor is much cheaper than buying it off you.
Am I going to keep purchasing your material or am I going to mine this newly discovered one all the way to the center of the earth?
Also, are you willing to go with $500k/y over nothing at all? You're basically going against the earth. You will end up having an abundance of raw materials and will beg me to buy it at $250k/y.

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 00:01 1

20. TheMan (Posts: 400; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


Bucko, as we learned in Chemistry 101, there's a section of the Periodic Table called Rare Earth elements or metals. The name is a bit misleading; the minerals are relatively plentiful, just not in concentrations that make extraction highly efficient.

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 18:43 5

4. TheLolGuy (Posts: 483; Member since: 05 Mar 2013)


Wow, the Chinese government purposely restricted exports so companies were forced to build in China? Thats so dirty... I hope that manufacturing bubble blows up really bad for their poor decision...

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 19:59 2

8. squallz506 (banned) (Posts: 1075; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


dude, china is smart. there are deposits in central africa too, and companies are basically raping the land and giving nothing back to the people. at least china used its leverage to create jobs and revenues.

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 20:31 1

10. jsdechavez (Posts: 701; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


Well, China has to make jobs for their billion-strong population....

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 01:07 2

24. TechBizJP08 (Posts: 495; Member since: 25 Mar 2013)


Cheap pay that is,they also let minor work and not pay a single dime.lol

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 18:49 3

5. lolioslol (banned) (Posts: 182; Member since: 10 Dec 2012)


Jesus do you even proof read before submitting your articles? Holy typos Batman...

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 19:17 3

6. buccob (Posts: 1367; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)


this will only bring cost down to manufacturers. I don't expect them to sell cheap from now on...

Still good for them...

(P.s.: Sony lower your end user prices...)

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 19:51

7. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6255; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


Can someone explain me what is RARE EARTH is on electronics? Sorry all i remember someone told me its bad and its in every electornic device like PC's ect

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 21:06 1

14. Zero0 (Posts: 583; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)


They're heavy metals needed in small quantities for electronics. As far as phones go, I think they're mostly used in displays. There are other uses for them in technology (large batteries, magnets, etc.).

The mining and refining of rare earth metals can get a bit nasty. They're usually mined alongside radioactive elements, and the chemicals needed to purify are not terribly eco-friendly. This is where a lot of the concern comes from, to my understanding.

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 22:07 2

17. bizwhizzy (Posts: 38; Member since: 04 Aug 2011)


Can someone Google for me? Or come to my house and click the source link, then read to me?

posted on 27 Mar 2013, 00:52

30. RobotMan (Posts: 125; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)


I am on the way. Airplane ticket please!

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 20:00 2

9. GeekNews (Posts: 9; Member since: 25 Mar 2013)


"All we need is enough to force China to lower its prices"

Yeah I doubt that'll happen! This is the same issue we face with Oil. One country can boost production and the others will lower it to maintain the artificially inflated prices.

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 21:06

15. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)


Wow I wonder how it would feel like skoba diving at that deep 5700 meter pressure levels,,,,?

posted on 25 Mar 2013, 22:23

19. p0rkguy (Posts: 683; Member since: 23 Nov 2010)


Pretty sure scuba divers will die at that point...

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 01:11

25. TechBizJP08 (Posts: 495; Member since: 25 Mar 2013)


Not possible man,they use equipment like pressurized machines and stuff.

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 03:13

27. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5612; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Robots. Like what was used to plug the BP blowout in Gulf of Mexico.

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 00:44

21. GJanee (Posts: 212; Member since: 29 Jun 2011)


in my opinion this only matters for the manufacturers, you as a consumer will still pay for the brand name, not the quality of materials used

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 01:04 4

22. 8logic (Posts: 130; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)


I'm Chinese and even I hate China for the s**t they do

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 01:05

23. Topcat488 (Posts: 1124; Member since: 29 Sep 2012)


This is "Good & Bad" news for Japan... Good that the material was found, bad that blasting pressurized air into that known "Earth Quake" fault line area, can't be too good.

posted on 26 Mar 2013, 15:23

29. MartianMe (unregistered)


Oh i see now,,so this is why china is growing big in their economy.

posted on 14 Oct 2013, 03:04

31. XDLOL (Posts: 4; Member since: 14 Oct 2013)


Funny, China has 1.3 billion people, besides IT'S THEIR raw material. Yet they have 1.3 billion people need those natural resources. Why should they feed the other 6.7 billion people when they have 1.3 billion people to worry about. Let me ask you guys a question, you have natural resources in your country, are you willing to share it/selling it for CHEAP price? hell nah~

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