Japan discover cobalt supply that could feed its lithium-ion battery making demand for 88-years

Japan’s state energy and resource agency Jogmec, the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, has made a test extraction of deepwater cobalt-rich ferro-manganese crusts off the country’s Pacific coast, as it works towards development of domestic mineral resources, Argusmedia.com reports.

Jogmec carried out the test last month and collected 649kg of cobalt-rich crusts in areas around 930m deep near the Takuyo No.5 seamount located in Japan’s economic exclusive zone (EEZ) south of Minamitorishima island, the country’s easternmost island some 1,900km from Tokyo. The agency plans to examine the crust samples to evaluate resource quantities and the possible environmental impact, while targeting to carry out scaled-up mineral processing tests until April 2023.

Researchers in 2012 originally located cobalt-rich ferro-manganese crusts in Japan’s EEZ before making a discovery in 2018 of a deposit near Minamitorishima containing more than 16mn t of rare earth metals. Jogmec expected the Takuyo No.5 seamount crusts to contain a large reserve of cobalt that is enough to meet Japan’s demand for 88 years and nickel for 12 years based on earlier research results.

Jogmec also obtained a licence from the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in 2014 for mining a 3,000km² area 600km southeast of Minamitorishima in international waters. The ISA licence remains valid for 15 years until January 2029.

Japan is targeting to examine the feasibility of commercially developing deepwater cobalt-rich crusts in these areas by the end of 2028-29.

Tokyo has been strengthening efforts to mine its own rare metals and rare earths reserves to address the geopolitical risks of the supplies of these metals and break its dependence on China. It is also increasing government control over national reserves of rare metals as part of a national energy and resource security strategy.

Japan imported 4,012t of cobalt during this year’s first half, down by 11pc from a year earlier, according to government data.

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