Recent discoveries indicate potential new sources of rare earth elements and scandium in the deep seabed. Ocean Minerals, LLC (Ocean Minerals) has identified areas of prospective potential in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Cook Islands, and has entered into an agreement with the Cook Islands government for exclusive rights to prospect and explore these areas.
Rare earth elements (REEs) are critical to the world's most demanding high tech, green energy, and defense applications. New applications of REEs are constantly being discovered. This includes the use of scandium in the next generation of high strength aluminum alloys for aerospace applications. At present 90% of the world's supply of REEs comes from China.
The areas in the Cook Islands were discovered during a research study of alternative sources of REEs conducted by Houston-based Deep Reach Technology, Inc. (DRT). Ocean Minerals has entered into a licensing agreement with DRT for engineering technology and information gained during the research study. The research conducted by DRT involved analyses of existing archived seabed samples throughout the Pacific leading DRT to the discovery of these enriched sediments near the Cook Islands. DRT also performed laboratory tests on these samples and is working on an economic means of processing the sediments on board the production vessel at sea. Ocean Minerals believes it has reserved the most promising areas and plans during the next few years to undertake several phases of seabed sampling which will incorporate the collection of environmental baseline data.
The areas reserved contain concentrations of scandium and heavy REEs. Ocean Minerals believes the scandium content has the potential to fuel a new aluminum-scandium alloy business serving the aerospace and automotive industries. Scandium, when added in small quantities to aluminum, creates a metal alloy which is extremely light, strong, corrosion resistant, heat tolerant, and weldable. The use of such an alloy in automobiles and aircraft could yield fuel savings while protecting lives. This application could lead to a reduction in carbon output serving to reduce sea level rise to which the Cook Islands is highly vulnerable.