Vast Rare Earth Deposits Discovered in the Pacific

Reuters has reported that vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial to phosphors used in fluorescent and LED light sources, among other electronics products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Mining these highly concentrated deposits could possibly bring stability to recent turmoil in the international market for rare earth metals.

China controls up to 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth metals. Earlier this year, the China Central Committee imposed new taxes on “Rare Earth” materials to help pay for local environmental site remediation, among other things. China also established future mining rules and regulations to control this strategic resource.

The electrical industry is feeling the impact of this critical supply/demand issue, and most fluorescent and CFL manufacturers have already announced price increases. According to a June 2011 bulletin from fluorescent lampmaker TCP: “An unprecedented rise in the rare earth mineral markets has sent fluorescent phosphor prices skyrocketing to levels not seen before. Fluorescent phosphor prices have increased nearly ten-fold over the past couple months.”

Japan, particularly, has suffered and has sought to secure rare earth resources for its high-tech industry.