How Japan Can Churn Out Game Machines For The Next... Two Hundred Years

Our glittering game machines and our shiny gadgets aren't made possible by merely fancy tech and electricity. They are here because minerals called rare earths, which are found in rich sludge and mud. Currently, China controls over 90 per cent of the world's current supply of rare earths. That, however, could change.

China's current dominance is, as previously pointed out, one reason why the iPad must be made in China — and probably a reason why many electronics are now made in China at facilities like Foxconn (above, pictured).

This week, Japan's NHK reported that a University of Tokyo led research team discovered a 6.8-ton rare earth deposit in a seabed near the island of Minamitorishima, which is located in Japanese waters. This isn't more than the 13 million tons of rare earths that exist in the US, but according to University of Tokyo professor Yasuhiro Kato, it's enough to supply the country with 227 years worth of electronics and hybrid car batteries. It's enough for Japan to break free of China.

This latest discovery comes as both the U.S. and the European Union are asking the World Trade organisation to end China's monopoly on rare earths. Tensions are even spilling over into the virtual world: upcoming video game, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, is centered on a future conflict over rare earths.

This latest discovery is also a huge boom for Japan — a country that imports 60 per cent of China's rare earths and a country with limited natural resources. While last summer, Japan discovered rare earth deposits in international waters, this is the first large scale rare earth discovery of its kind on Japanese territory.

Environmentalists worry that mining could disrupt sea life, but if Japan is able to safely extract the minerals, it could rely on itself for the creation of electronics and batteries — for the next two centuries.

Scientists in Japan discover rare earths in Pacific Ocean east of Tokyo [Japan Daily Press]

Image: Kin Cheung/AP


Comments

    As if environmental factors are going to be any deterrent to the Japanese.

    "also a huge boom for Japan"

    Boon, isn't it?

    Here's hoping this means Nintendo gear can go back to being made in Japan and rock-solid last-forever again :P

      It's Bashcraft. Any correct spelling or grammar is a happy coincidence.

    This 'rare Earth metals' is a complete misnomer. They're minerals that are widely available, but in very small quantities. China doesn't own 90% of these resources, it just has the manufacturing capability and lax environmental standards to ensure it's the only country where mining the stuff is economically viable. If any other nation was willing to pollute their local atmosphere, pump carcinogens in the water and pay their workers peanuts, they can theoretically do the exact same thing. The new CoD premise that China somehow has a monopoly on the stuff is complete dogshit.

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