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Friday, February 12, 1999 Published at 19:03 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Japan's undersea treasure

Treasure seekers should hit the ocean floor

Valuable deposits of gold and silver have been discovered by Japanese geologists in the crater of an undersea volcano around 400km south of Tokyo.

The discovery team found the precious metals over a total of 21 submarine dives in the area.

They say the rich mineral deposits, which could be mined in the future, are still growing, formed by the live offshore volcano.

Toby Murcott of BBC Science says that at about nine million metric tonnes, the so-called "Sunrise" deposit is bigger than most similar commercially-mined land-based ones.

The size of the find, and its relative accessibility holds out the possibility that there are many more commercially interesting undersea treasures waiting to be found.

Furthermore, this deposit has been found in an unexpected and relatively accessible place on the sea floor - and the ocean bed is peppered with similar undersea volcanoes.

A report about the discovery in the journal Science suggests that there are many more undersea treasure troves just waiting for gold hunters prepared to trawl the ocean bed.

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