TOKYO (Reuters) - Vast deposits of rare earth minerals have been discovered on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean amounting to 1,000 times those on land, media reported on Monday citing a study by Japanese researchers.
The deposits are estimated to amount to 100 billion metric tons, the Nikkei business daily said.
They are believed to lie at a depth of 3,500 to 6,000 meters and cover an area of over 11 million square meters, the reports said.
China, which produces 97 percent of global rare earth supplies, has been tightening trade in the strategic metal, which is used in high-tech electronics, magnets and batteries, causing concerns globally about supply and triggering jumps in prices.
The study by researchers from the University of Tokyo and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology is to be published on Monday in the online edition of the British science magazine Nature Geoscience, the reports said.
Japan's imports of rare earths from China fell 3 percent in May from April, the first month-on-month drop in three months, as the price of the metal surged, Japan's finance ministry said last month.
Demand could pick up later in the year as Japan continues to recover from the March 11 earthquake.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Michael Watson)