It’s mud. A whole bunch of mud — an estimated 16 million tons, to be exact. And in that mud, there are massive, “semi-infinite” stores of valuable rare earth minerals.
The 16 million tons of materials could contain 780 years worth of yttrium, 620 years worth of europium, 420 years worth of terbium, and 730 years worth of dysprosium. In other words, according to the paper, it “has the potential to supply these materials on a semi-infinite basis to the world.”
That alone is a pretty big deal, but it becomes even more significant given the current supply and demand of rare earth metals.
“Most of the world’s supply of (rare earth elements) comes from only a handful of sources,” a USGS report said, adding the long-term shortage or unavailability of the substances “would force significant changes in many technological aspects of American society.”
However, Japan has complete economic control over the new supply, and the study said all indications are the new resource “could be exploited in the near future.”
Even though Minamitorishima Island is more than a thousand miles away from the Japanese capital, it is still technically a part of Tokyo, in the village of Ogasawara, and falls within Japan’s economic borders.