Huge rare earth deposits found in Pacific -media

TOKYO, (Reuters) – Vast deposits of rare earth  minerals have been discovered on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean  amounting to 1,000 times those on land, media reported yesterday  citing a study by Japanese researchers.

The deposits are estimated to amount to 100 billion tonnes,  the Nikkei business daily said.

They are believed to lie at a depth of 3,500 to 6,000 metres  and cover an area of over 11 million square metres, the reports  said.

China, which produces 97 percent of global rare earth  supplies, has been tightening trade in the strategic metal,  which is used in high-tech electronics, magnets and batteries,  causing concerns globally about supply and triggering jumps in  prices.

The study by researchers from the University of Tokyo and  the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology is to  be published on Monday in the online edition of the British    science magazine Nature Geoscience, the reports said.

Japan’s imports of rare earths from China fell 3 percent in  May from April, the first month-on-month drop in three months,  as the price of the metal surged, Japan’s finance ministry said  last month.

Demand could pick up later in the year as Japan continues to  recover from the March 11 earthquake.

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