October 31, 2018
Agency for Natural Resources and Energy
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) have been advancing research concerning development of seafloor polymetallic sulphides since FY2008.
As part of this effort, METI and JOGMEC comprehensively assessed the results of the research from the technical aspects and economic viability, and based on this, they organized a list of remaining challenges to be tackled. METI hereby releases the summary report of the comprehensive assessment.
Seafloor polymetallic sulphides distributed across sea areas near Okinawa Prefecture and other marine areas are Japan’s indigenous resources. The successful development of these potential resources in Japan is expected to bring about new domestic mineral supply sources, the majority of which Japan currently imports from overseas.
The Basic Plan on Ocean Policy (approved by the Cabinet on May 15, 2018) sets a goal concerning seafloor polymetallic sulphides: “launching a project aiming for commercialization with the participation of private-sector corporations after the mid-2020s, while monitoring international situations.” METI and JOGMEC have since been carrying out projects including research for resource estimation of seafloor polymetallic sulphides under sea areas surrounding Japan and basic study and research concerning production technologies under the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy and the Plan for the Development of Marine Energy and Mineral Resources (formulated by METI on December 24, 2013).
2. Comprehensive assessment of the development
The Basic Plan on Ocean Policy and the Plan for the Development of Marine Energy and Mineral Resources stipulate that comprehensive verification and assessment concerning the development of seafloor polymetallic sulphides, including studying economic viability, should be conducted in FY2018.
In accordance with the stipulation, METI and JOGMEC conducted a technical assessment of current results gained in the technical fields of research on resource estimation, environmental impact assessments, excavating and ore lifting, and ore flotation and smelting. In addition, they studied the economic viability of the development as of today and organized a list of remaining challenges to achieving successful development in the future.
As a result of the assessment, they found that, on the premise that they will engage in related efforts based on a long-term perspective, the potential for good economic viability exists if they can: secure economically highly valuable deposits in terms of both quality and quantity, (e.g., deposits containing copper, gold or silver with higher economic value than deposits mainly consisting of zinc-- a target of this assessment); establish efficient production technologies; solve various challenges (e.g., development of legal systems, adjusting the interests of other industries concerned in use of target sea areas and installation of a site for flotation plant, including tailings dam sites); and if metal prices increase to appropriate levels.
Division in Charge
Mineral and Natural Resources Division, Natural Resources and Fuel Department, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy