Scientists: Stuff to make cell phones may come from ocean floor
Soil containing rare-earth elements is loaded for shipment to a Chinese port last year.
July 4th, 2011
08:11 AM ET

Scientists: Stuff to make cell phones may come from ocean floor

Key raw materials necessary for modern devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and flat-screen TVs may be found in abundance on the ocean floor, Japanese scientists report in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Yasuhiro Kato and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo say they surveyed 78 sites on the Pacific Ocean floor and found high concentrations of rare-earth elements and the metal yttrium.

"We estimate that an area of just one square kilometer, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one-fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements," the scientists report.

And, the scientists say, the rare earths might not be difficult to extract.

"We show that rare-earth elements and yttrium are readily recovered from the mud by simple acid leaching, and suggest that deep-sea mud constitutes a highly promising huge resource for these elements," they wrote.

That would be good news for the market for rare earths, 97% of which now come from China, according to media reports. Recent Chinese moves to limit exports of rare-earth minerals has caused price spikes, Mother Nature News reports.

But writing on, journalist Nicola Jones reports that deep-ocean rare-earth mining might not be that simple. Jones quotes Gareth Hatch of Illinois-based Technology Metals Research:

"People talk about mining on the asteroids or the moon. This isn't that hard, but it's similar."

But based on what we make with these minerals (read the Mother Nature News report), it may be a task the world want to take on.

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Filed under: Earth • Japan • Mining • Technology
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. jmdaj

    Nothing would ever go wrong with this it wont do any damage to the ocean and theres no way a future man made disaster would come of it.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • citylightz

      And besides, it's just the ocean floor. No one would ever see it anyway and what damage could it possibly do?
      It's not like the oceans are important to mankind, right?

      When will we learn?

      July 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jmdaj

    no possible way well f the world up more.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. jmdaj

    for cheap electronics.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. jmdaj

    wont happen.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. jmdaj

    theres no reason for deep sea mud being there except for waiting for us to make cell phones. no side effects will happen if we dig it all up.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. jmdaj


    July 4, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |

    YE landlubbers need to stay outta my stuff.. unless ye want to provoke me anger!!

    July 4, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |

    Dont worry there is probably some silly animal down there that needs protected..

    July 4, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. CSnSC

    Already contacted the EPA. We must insure the survival of the sea mud stink worm.

    July 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy

    I agree... Nothing good can come from this.
    We need to quit messing with Mother Earth.
    And before anyone takes me to task because I use the products these elements make up, let me say:
    Given a choice between my cell and the abstract future of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the cell would be history.

    July 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |

    i miss my bag phone... btw i think "CB's" where a way better form of commmnication.. i had one in my hurst olds..
    breaker breaker 19 looking for a bear report...

    July 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      When our enemies bring down our communication, I have seriously thought of a CB radio. My Oldsmobile was one of the greatest cars I have ever driven, so smooth. Missouri Republicans are going to tax the internet by the way. In Missouri the unlimited minutes on our phones will be history soon. Bummer, we are taxed for everything, so the resurection of the CB may be in order.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cesar

    That stuff is also in Afghanistan. Worth billions.

    July 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy

    Sorry for my above post, didn't include my great great grandchildren and my great great great grandchildren, etc.etc.etc.and more

    July 4, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Banasy I saw a post that also said you were in Montana, it was on the spill in Montana thread,it had perplexed me b/c I thought u were from the N, East.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    I'm not including my husband, I hope he doesn't make it, he's a pest.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      I group my husband in with the kids anyway.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy

    @Scottish, I live in the Chicago area, I think my troll posted that, by the way, hi!

    July 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
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