Japan does not admit defeat in the global race for rare earths

Japan's identification of a massive rare earth deposit is a testament to the efforts of the archipelago, the world's second largest consumer of these strategic minerals, to reduce its dependence on China against the backdrop of growing demand and rising prices

Japanese scientists unveiled this week that deposits located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) could contain more than 16 million tonnes of rare earths, which, according to them, cover several centuries of global needs.

Rare earths are a group of 17 metallic elements that have become essential in the manufacture of high-tech products, such as wind turbines, smartphones, and electric motors.

Japan currently relies heavily on China, which concentrates 90% of the production (about 150,000 tons in 2016) and therefore controls this ultra-strategic market.

In 2011, the Asian giant caused a momentary surge in prices and a real crisis on the world market by applying export quotas.

If these quotas no longer exist, the market tightened again last year and prices jumped, although much less than in 2011. Because on one side China has limited production and struggled against illegal mines, and on the other hand, announcements have multiplied in favor of electric vehicles and the development of renewable energies, which consume a lot of rare earths.

– 'Actor of weight' –

Faced with this situation, many countries are trying to emancipate themselves from Chinese domination. Outside China, 38 projects are in various stages of development, according to an assessment by the specialized firm Adamas Intelligence

The Japanese archipelago is no exception, notably by investing in deposits in the world. The public body dedicated to raw materials Jogmec and the Sojitz group, for example, financed the Australian mining group Lynas, the largest non-Chinese producer, in exchange for part of its production.

The country is also developing the recycling of products containing rare earths to recover precious minerals. "The Japanese are already a major player in this market and seek in many ways to overcome any dependence on Chinese supplies," confirms AFP Gaétan Lefebvre, expert at the French Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM

Japan "must prepare for the possibility that prices will rise again", which could then make offshore oil fields competitive, and "contribute to Japan's security of supply", explains AFP Yutaro Takaya, researcher at Waseda University, and contributor to the study unveiled this week

The estimate of these resources is indeed "impressive", observes Ryan Castilloux, director of the cabinet Adamas Intelligence

Scientists have estimated that the present amount of dysprosium, an element used for example in permanent magnets, accounted for 730 years of world consumption, while yttriu reserves m, entering the manufacture of lasers, were likely to meet the needs of the industry for 780 years.

– The Challenge of Extraction –

But the Japanese field, although promising, is still far from being exploitable, not to mention environmental issues, experts say.

"It will take several years to determine whether an exploitation is feasible, "notes M. Castilloux.

" Nothing says that the entire deposit can be economically extracted "and" competitively compared to the onshore deposits ", in particular Chinese, judge Mark Hannington, geologist at the Geomar (Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research) in Kiel, Germany

Currently, there is no cost-effective technique for exploiting this type of deposit, located at such great depths (more than 5,000 meters). "Only pilot projects have been carried out," he says.

And given the low concentration of rare earths, less than 1% of submarine sludge, "that means that to recover 1,000 tons of rare earth oxide, one million tonnes of sludge would have to be treated, "explains Mr. Castilloux.

" There are millions and millions of tonnes of rare earths in other previously identified terrestrial deposits that I believe are more attractive options, "he says.

" Work must continue to develop ways to bring the sludge back to the surface, "says Takaya. The researchers hope to achieve this "in five years", according to him, even if he admits that "the cost will be a challenge."

Last year, the Institute of Geological Studies of the United States ( USGS) estimated the world's rare earth reserves at 120 million tonnes, including 44 million in China, 22 million in Brazil, and 18 million in Russia.

Climate: global agreement to reduce carbon emissions from shipping

The International Maritime Organization announced Friday in London the signing of an agreement to reduce "by at least 50%" the CO2 emissions of shipping by 2050 from the level of 2008. [19659002ThisisthefirsttimethattheshippingindustryhassettargetsforfightingclimatechangeThesectorwasnotdirectlyaffectedbytheParisAgreementsignedinDecember2015atCOP21TheIMOhas173MemberStates

This "initial strategy for the first time (…) to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 , while continuing its efforts to eliminate them completely, "says the IMO in a statement.

Its Secretary General, Kitack Lim, felt that this was a "basis for future action", and encouraged member states to "continue (their) efforts."

British Minister transport, Nusrat Ghani, hailed a "decisive moment". "We will work with other member states to ensure that the shipping industry makes the transition to zero-emission vessels as quickly as possible," she said.

The decision was obtained after two weeks of negotiations. IMO did not indicate which countries rejected the text. The United States and Saudi Arabia opposed the versions preceding the final agreement.

The agreement emphasizes the willingness of sector players to achieve, beyond the figure of 50%, the total elimination carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Commercial shipping accounts for 80% of international freight transport, and 2-3% of global CO2 emissions by source.

According to the Institute of Energy UCL, the agreement is compatible with a global warming of 2 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era, a lower ambition than the Paris agreement, which aims for global warming below this level, with a target of 1.5 ° C.

The agreement is the result of a compromise, some Pacific countries and the European Union pushed to adopt a reduction of 70% to 100 here 2050. In contrast, others, like Japan, did not want to impose r 50% reduction in emissions by 2060.

Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine described the agreement as "historic", while stressing the need to "improve it" to give her country threatened by the rising waters, "a path to survival."

The Climate Action Network considered the agreement a "welcome first step", while being attentive to its application.

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Japan: rare earths to fill centuries of global needs

Japanese scientists have analyzed massive rare earth deposits in the seabed of the Pacific Ocean, arguing that they could represent several hundred years of global consumption of some of these materials.

These deposits discovered in 2013 could contain more than 16 million tonnes of these precious minerals, used in the manufacture of high-tech products (wind turbines, smartphones, electric motors, etc.), according to a study published Tuesday by the journal Scientific Reports. [19659002Theyarelocatedinavastareaof​​2500km2neartheislandofMinamitorishimasome2000kmsoutheastofTokyo

In previous research conducted in the same region, scientists, some of whom also the new study had reached an estimate of about 6.8 million tonnes, a finding that was already considered important.

These conclusions are good news for Japan, which imports from China, where most of the world's rare earths are produced, 90% of these crucial metals for its industry.

Researchers analyzed samples of sludge collected at more than 5,000 meters deep and extrapolated the amount of mineable minerals.

They estimated that the present amount of dysprosium, an element used for example in permanent magnets, represented 730 years of world consumption, whereas the reserves of yttrium, which is used in the manufacture of lasers, were likely to fill the industry needs for 780 years.

They also found large amounts of europium and terbium.

The research area "has the potential to provide the world with these metals on an almost infinite basis," insist the authors of the study.

To achieve this result, the researchers applied a centrifugation technique that makes it possible to extract even more minerals. They have thus succeeded in increasing the concentration of exploitable rare earths, and therefore the profitability of development projects, they assure.

And if, in the future, a way is found to use this method of extraction directly under water, then "it will help improve the economic efficiency" of the exploitation of these deposits located at great depths, they add.

To escape global warming, mountain flora migrates to the peaks

The global warming pushes the mountainous flora towards the peaks. This is the finding that a team of 53 researchers from eleven different countries made compiling the available data on the number of plants recorded from 302 mountain peaks in Europe among which those of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, Scotland or Scandinavia. This study was published in the journal Nature Thursday, April 5, 2018.

The ecosystem is gradually gaining altitude because it enjoys more favorable conditions for its development. Thus, the summits are five times more colonized by new plant species in the last ten years than in the decade 1957-1966. The report points out that in 87% of the cases studied, the mountainous flora was enriched. Researchers also show that this trend is consistent with rising temperatures. They recall that mountains are particularly sensitive to climate change and are experiencing rapid warming. The authors of the report also note that other global factors such as nitrogen-related atmospheric deposition linked to pollutants or even peaks frequented by humans do not explain this acceleration, since the impacts vary according to the zones studied.

A phenomenon disturbing

The study is based on 145 years of botanical surveys. This decline allows the authors of the report to show the strong acceleration of the process. Because this colonization of the flora of the lower levels towards the peaks is more and more fast. CNRS researchers point out, through a press release that this migration also concerns species deemed to move slowly. This phenomenon worries researchers who say that once the plants have reached the summit, which is their last refuge, there will be no other way out. "The mountain ecosystems could thus be strongly disturbed in the future", ensures the CNRS.

" So far, no extinction of species of the tops has been observed ", explain the researchers of the national center of the scientific research. But, the plants, migrating from the lower levels, are more vigorous than those of the peaks. They are better equipped to win, with a larger size. Some plants may therefore disappear because they will not be able to compete with more competitive species from lower levels. The CNRS explains that an imbalance in the functioning of the mountain ecosystem is to be feared if certain plant species are to disappear.

The authors of the report believe that this is a new proof of the "great acceleration ", a concept proposed in the years 2005 by several scientists to describe the exponential growth, after 1950, of alterations of the biosphere by human activities. This phenomenon is for scientists revealing social and environmental upheavals.

Global warming: even a rise of 2 ° C leads to disastrous consequences

Rising seas, loss of biodiversity, complicated access to food, declining standard of living … Even if the world manages to limit warming to 2 ° C, the consequences will be disastrous, according to some 20 studies published April 2, 2018 in the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A . " We detect significant changes in climate impacts for a world at 2 ° C, so we must take steps to avoid it ," said AFP Dann Mitchell, Bristol University , principal author of the text which introduces this special issue.

More than two years after the signature of the Paris Agreement which aims to maintain the rise of the thermometer under 2 ° C, or even 1.5 ° C, compared to the pre-industrial era, the twenty or so studies compare the impact of the two scenarios. " One of the challenges is how quickly we will reach + 2 ° C ," says Mitchell. In other words, the time that the world will have or not to adapt to the multiple consequences of global warming. The UN Climate Experts Group (Giec) is due to report in October on a possible planet at + 1.5 ° C. The draft text already estimated in January 2018 that in view of current country commitments and CO2 emission trajectories, it was " extremely unlikely " to achieve this goal.

The sea level will continue to rise " for at least three centuries "

Even though the temperature rise stabilizes at +1.5 or + 2 ° C, the Sea level will continue to rise " for at least three centuries ", by 90 or 120 cm by 2300, according to one of the 20 studies compiled by the researchers. This will result in flooding, erosion and salinization of groundwater. The more optimistic the scenario, the more the Pacific Islands, the Ganges Delta or the coastal cities will have time to build defenses or move populations. If nothing is done to limit CO2 emissions, the average rise in sea level, caused by ice melt and water dilation, will reach 72 cm by 2100. But this perspective is variable depending on the temperatures. It is thus estimated at 65 for the scenario at + 2 ° C, while it could reach 130 years if climate change is maintained at + 1.5 ° C. " The impacts for the 21st century are rather postponed than avoided ", and note the researchers.

A more difficult access to food

According to studies, a rise in temperatures will cause a greater food insecurity around the world. This will be the consequence of both floods and larger droughts. A warming of 2 ° C would make it more vulnerable to the shortage of countries like Bangladesh, Oman, Mauritania, Yemen and Niger. On the contrary, Mali, Burkina Faso and Sudan would see their situation improve slightly as they would suffer from less severe droughts. But this is an " exception ", according to Professor Richard Betts, who conducted one of 20 studies. In case of warming 1.5 ° C, " 76% of the countries studied would record a lower increase in their vulnerability to food insecurity ," report the researchers.

Even poorer countries poor

If a temperature rise of + 1.5 ° C is not expected to change much of the world's economic growth, " a warming of 2 ° C suggests significantly lower growth rates for many countries, especially around the equator "says Felix Pretis, an economist at Oxford University. " The already poor countries today are expected to become even poorer with climate change, and more if temperatures rise by + 2 ° C than by an increase of + 1.5 ° C. rich will probably be less affected ", emphasizes Felix Pretis

A significant difference for biodiversity

If a rise in temperatures will disrupt some of the fauna and flora," contain the warming in 1.5 ° C rather than 2 ° C (…) would increase from 5.5% to 14% the areas of the globe that could serve as a climate refuge for plants and animals ", says another study. Their area would be equivalent to that of the " current network of protected areas ". In addition, limiting global warming could reduce by nearly 50% the number of species at risk of halving their natural habitat