8 Jul 2011

Lucrative rare earths on Pacific floor hard to reach

6:56 am on 8 July 2011

A principal scientist at GNS New Zealand says the discovery of vast rare earth elements deep in the Pacific Ocean is an interesting find, but mining the resource may be difficult and extremely costly.

This week Nature Geoscience published the findings by University of Tokyo engineers that there were vast deposits at depths of up to 6,000 metres.

Cornel de Ronde says the find is convenient, coming at a time when the costs of rare earth elements, which are used in sophisticated machinery, have soared.

He says China currently holds 90 percent of the global supply for these sought after elements.

"Part of what you are seeing in the work done by Dr Kato is in response to the rare earth element suite of minerals and so on [being] largely tied up by one country, by China. So I think this is strategic as much as in discovery. And whether this ultimately translates into exploitation thereof, remains to be seen."