Japan says it has found enough rare-earth minerals to supply the world for ... ever.

Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Japanese explorers say, they have found more than 100 billion metric tons of rare-earth minerals. The sea mud under as much as 20,000 feet of water is said to be rich in rare-earth minerals that will be easy to extract. University of Tokyo associate professor Yasuhiro Kato says, "Sea mud can be brought up to ships and we can extract rare earths right there using simple acid leaching."

If it's as easy as the professor makes it sound, it could be a game changer for rare-earth miners that are expanding right now, including Molycorp (NYSE: MCP) and Lynas Corp., which are opening mines in the U.S. and Australia, respectively.

The biggest losers
The ones hurt most by this find would be companies that are many years from producing any rare-earth minerals. Rare Element Resources (AMEX: REE) and Avalon Rare Metals (AMEX: AVL) aren't due to open for many years and are relying on high prices to maintain their stock prices.

Only time will tell if this find becomes real competition in the rare-earth market. There is already debate about who controls the land, because it is in international water, so it may take a while to get sorted out. It could also be too good to be true. But if not, miners are in trouble.

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