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  5. Comprehensive Evaluation of Seafloor Hydrothermal Deposits Released

Comprehensive Evaluation of Seafloor Hydrothermal Deposits Released

Release of the Evaluation Results

November 8, 2023

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC) have been conducting efforts for developing seafloor hydrothermal deposits. Concerning these past efforts, METI and JOGMEC conducted a second comprehensive evaluation, following the first one it conducted five years ago in 2018. They organized the achievements of the efforts conducted for five years from FY2018 to FY2022, the evaluation results about economic viability of the deposits, and the anticipated challenges that need to be resolved and compiled the evaluation results into a report.

1. Background

Seafloor hydrothermal deposits 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 sources for the domestic supply of minerals, the majority of which Japan currently imports from overseas.

The Basic Plan on Ocean Policy (approved by the Cabinet on April 28, 2023) sets a goal for efforts concerning seafloor hydrothermal deposits: “aiming to launch commercialization projects led by private-sector corporations after the mid-2020s.” METI and JOGMEC have since been advancing both the exploration of seafloor hydrothermal deposits under the sea areas surrounding Japan and a study on the development of 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 February 15, 2019).

2. Comprehensive evaluation of seafloor hydrothermal deposits

The Plan for the Development of Marine Energy and Mineral Resources states that Japan should comprehensively review and evaluate the results of the development of seafloor hydrothermal deposits, including a study on economic viability, in FY2022.

According to this goal, METI and JOGMEC compiled a report on the results of their achievements in a variety of fields related to exploration, excavation and extraction of ore, ore flotation and smelting, environmental impact assessments, and research into ideal approaches to legal frameworks. In addition, they studied the economic viability of the deposits as of FY2022 and organized the anticipated challenges that need to be resolved to achieve successful development in the future.

METI and JOGMEC have found results that indicate that they may find the deposits to be economically viable if they reduce production costs by improving production systems and enhancing operational efficiencies and if they increase revenues through the discovery of new deposits, increased production efficiencies, and higher metal prices.

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