Japan plans to deploy unmanned probes to scour the sea-floor around the resource-poor island nation for mineral deposits, a government-backed scientific organisation said Thursday. Two underwater robots tethered to a ship would explore the seabed for rare metals, said an official of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), which is set to start the project in fiscal year 2010.
Researchers hope to discover minerals such as manganese, cobalt, lead and zinc used in Japanese products from cars to the batteries in IT gadgets.
JAMSTEC, a government-linked agency that specialises in environmental research and marine technology, plans to invest four billion yen (42.55 million US dollars) in the probes, the official said.
The move comes as Japan, the world's second-biggest economy, tries to break away from its dependence on foreign imports of raw materials and energy.
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