The Wall Street Journal reported that in a bid to secure future cobalt supply, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) has signed a 15-year contract with the International Seabed Authority under which it will have permission to explore 150 cobalt-rich crust blocks. Together, they cover “3,000 square kilometers of the seabed near Japan’s southern territorial sea.”
As quoted in the market news:
Takahiro Hagiwara, minerals director of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, acknowledges the costliness of underwater activities. ‘Japan wouldn’t see any serious cobalt shortage any time soon, even if we don’t go underwater right now,’ he said. ‘What we are doing is to secure wider options for Japan. The ocean accounts for a large part of its territory. There is no reason not to explore. After looking into how much resources there are there, we can decide on whether to go further or not.’
Tokyo aims to explore and narrow down the 150 blocks to prospective ones by 2018 and establish technology to extract and refine cobalt from underwater without polluting the ocean in the following five years.