Jamaica may host a large amount of rare earth elements (REEs), according to the latest findings by Japanese mining company Nippon Light Metal Holdings Company (TSE:5703). Philip Paulwell, the country's minister of science, technology, energy and mining, recently confirmed to lawmakers that researchers believe they have found "high concentrations of rare-earth elements" in the country's red mud, or bauxite residue.
The announcement comes as manufacturing-focused countries, such as Japan, increase their efforts to secure supplies of REEs from sources outside of China. REEs are vital components in the manufacturing of modern technologies such as wind turbines, hybrid cars, green technologies, televisions and computer screens, and it is thought that the island nation will be able to benefit from the discovery. In a written statement to Jamaica's parliament, Paulwell notes that researchers from Nippon Light Metal Holdings believe REEs can be efficiently extracted in the region, where a once-flourishing bauxite industry has struggled amid global economic uncertainty. It is believed that Nippon approached the Jamaican government in January 2012 with claims that it has the capability and knowledge to mine REEs found in the country's red mud supply. Discovery could boost economy In the statement, Paulwell highlights that the discovery has the potential to provide a significant boost to the Caribbean island's sputtering economy. After gaining independence in 1962, Jamaica's economy went through a period of successful growth, partially as a result of the mining of bauxite, which leaves behind large quantities of red mud - the same substance that researchers claim is a source of REEs, the UK's Wired reported. While the country remains the world's fifth-largest exporter of bauxite, ongoing global economic uncertainty has led to reduced demand and minimal growth across the sector.