The world is dependent on a steady supply of rare-earth elements such as yttrium, europium, terbium, dysprosium. They go into computers, phones, electric cars, solar panels, batteries, and electronic equipment. China is the world's biggest supplier of rare-earth elements, and uses its monopoly position as an effective bargaining chip. But Japan just announced that it has discovered a massive lode of rare earth materials that could satisfy the world's requirements on a "semi-infinite basis" (love that term).
The materials sit in a roughly 965-square-mile Pacific Ocean seabed near Minamitorishima Island, which is located 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo, according to the study published in Nature Publishing Group's Scientific Reports.
Rare-earth metals are crucial in the making of high-tech products such as electric vehicles, mobile phones and batteries, and the world has relied on China for almost all of its rare-earth material.
The seabed contains more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides, according to the study. That's equivalent to 780 years' worth of yttrium supply, 620 years of europium, 420 years of terbium and 730 years of dysprosium, it added.
The discovery "has the potential to supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world," the study said.