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Scientists find 'easy' way to extract rare earths from seafloor

(Minews) - While economists and geologists worry the world's supply of rare earth metals will soon be outpaced by demand, a team of German geochemists has found a way to easily extract them from the vast deposits lying under the sea.

In a study, published last week in the journal Applied Geochemistry, the scientists suggest rare earth metals could be mined from the solid nodes of iron and manganese found strewn across much of the deep ocean floor.

These nodules, called ferromanganese deposits, build slowly over time as dissolved iron and manganese in seawater attaches to seafloor sediments.

Using the solvent desferrioxamine-B — a key ingredient of the method they have developed—these elements could be easily extracted.

The diluter binds more strongly to some metals than others and when applied to ferromanganese nodes, effectively and efficiently extracts rare earth metals, leaving other metals beh