When, in August 2011, Pr Yasuhiro Kato and his team of scientists published their findings in « Nature geoscience », the rare earth mining industry and geologists were fascinated, according to the profession. The fact is that the research results were timely, only about one year after China, having conquered a quasi monopoly on the rare earths world market, announced prices and quantities settings for its exports. Metals included in the rather vague concept of rare earths are or fundamental importance for most of the technologically advanced products we use now everyday. Accordingly, land resources of those elements which had not been exploited, or mines which had been closed because of the very low prices initially set by China were put to use in the rest of the world. But it takes time to start operations and the grades and type of metals are different in different geological occurrences. So it was striking to be told that in French Polynesia and Hawaii, there were enormous quantities of high grade metals, albeit by some four thousands meters depth. Japanese industrial companies and probably some others are trying now to assess the economic value of the resources.
Pr Kato was asked by PECC to present more extensively his findings during the last seminar on Ocean Resources which was held in New Zealand on December 4 and 5. Excerpts of his presentation areattached.