World searches seabed for the minerals to circumvent China's monopoly
Rare earth minerals—-there are 17 of them—are vital for the production of smart phones, cameras, steel and hybrid cars, and hence the world economy. They are present in a significant amount on the sea floor, both in sovereign and international waters. At present, China contributes 90 per cent of the global production of the minerals. Developments in last five years show that China has been using this monopoly to control the production and price of the minerals. So there have been attempts worldwide to realign strategic relations around exploration of rare earths in seabed. Developed countries are taking the lead. Japan, along with the US and the EU, formed an alliance to challenge China's restrictive policies in the WTO. In April 2014, the WTO ruled against China.
India has collaborated with Japan since November 2012 to develop rare earth materials. As part of India-Japan strategic collaboration, an agreement was signed for exploration and production of rare earths, following which India is setting up a monazite processing plant in Odisha. In April 2013, Japan disclosed discovery of a bounty of rare earths in the seabed around Minami-Tori-shima Island. Scientists claim the reserve holds 20 to 30 times more minerals than those being mined in China.