Researchers have found rare metal deep beneath the surface of the sea—but the discovery largely serves to highlight a pressing dilemma about where we should draw the line when it comes to extracting nature's resources.
The BBC reports that scientists have identified an undersea mountain 300 miles from the coast of the Canary Islands that’s incredibly rich in the rare earth metal tellurium. About 1,000 meters beneath the surface, the mountain’s outer crust is coated in two inches of rock that contains 50,000 times more of the metal than deposits found on land.
What makes the finding so tantalizing is that tellurium is used in some of the world’s most efficient solar cells—but is also, like many rare earth metals, relatively difficult to come by. In fact, Bram Murton, who led the project that uncovered the deposits, has calculated that the mountain could yield 2,670 metric tons of tellurium—equivalent to one-12th of the world's total supply.