China's control over the rare earths market hasn't faced too many challenges over the past few years, but that may be changing, thanks to a major discovery in Japan. Geologists say they've uncovered expansive new deposits of rare earth minerals, buried within a seabed some 20,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean surface. Research leader Yasuhiro Kato estimates that the deposits contain anywhere from 80 to 100 billion metric tons of rare earths, which, if commercially viable, could pose a serious threat to China's global hegemony. Supply shortages and aggressive Chinese export controls have combined to raise global prices in recent years, much to the chagrin of manufacturers who rely upon the metals to produce smartphones, tablets and a wide variety of other gadgets. But with analysts predicting a rare earth surplus within the next few years and Japan's mining industry now poised for a potential resurgence, the outlook is certainly looking a lot brighter.