The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry expects to commercialize first-ever mineral extraction from the Okinawan seafloor


September 27, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo


Tokyo – Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced September 26 that for the first time ever, a large quantity of minerals, including valuable resources such as gold, were successfully extracted from an approximately 1,600 meter-long hydrothermal mineral deposit in the sea floor off the coast of Okinawa.

METI expects that the increase ore extraction efficacy will lead to establishing the techniques for a domestic industry in the mineral resources most nations rely on, and commercialization.

METI noted that, “If a sufficient quantity of mineral deposits can be confirmed, it is possible that Japan could become a resource-exporting nation.”

METI, in collaboration with Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), have been conducting a geological survey on the ocean floor off the coast of Okinawa since mid-August.

In the survey, ore was extracted from sea floor hydrothermal mineral deposits formed by hot water springing from the ocean floor, depositing metals such as copper, lead, gold, and silver.

Around 16 tons of ore was extracted by sucking it up along with seawater using a large pump.

This method allowed for a more effective extraction of ore than previous unmanned extraction methods.

METI determined that the mineral deposit excavated in this survey contains approximately the same amount of zinc that Japan uses in a year.

With the success of the survey, METI will move forward with their 2018 economic evaluation, and consider if this can lead to commercialization in the future.

METI Minister Hiroshige Seko commented at the press conference September 26 that, “I would like to work with private industry to plan for commercial development, and work on policies related to resource quantity, quality, and industrial technology.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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