Japanese geologists have found vast deposits of rare earth metals in the mud on the Pacific ocean floor.
The scientists estimate that there could be 100 billion tonnes of the material in international waters east and west of Hawaii and east of Tahiti in French Polynesia.
At present, China produces 97 per cent of the world’s supply of these metals, but this could end this dominance if extraction of the material can be made commercially viable.
University of Tokyo associate professor of earth science Yashuhiro Kato said: “The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometre of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global consumption.”