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This 35 km wide underwater volcano is near the Canary Islands and is a large deposit of rare earths

known as Mount Tropic, near the Canary Islands hides one of the largest deposits of rare earths to which Spain and the European Union could have access in the future. Of all the metals that the rock formation treasures, the ones that attract the most interest for the automobile industry are nickel, cobalt and telluriumbut especially the latter, since it is a metal with a great energy conductivity and is even rarer than gold.

Approximately 120 million years old, Mount Tropic is part of a group of extinct volcanoes that are believed to have once formed an archipelago of islands. For this reason, this group of seamounts is known as “The grandmothers of the Canary Islands”. In addition to the Tropic, the other mountains are identified by the names of Drago, Echo, Bimbache or The Papsa, and all of them have in common an origin with the same volcanic processes that formed the Canary archipelago.

The mount focus of the controversy, the Tropic, is the one that is further south. It is located approximately 250 kilometers from the island of El Hierro, and emerges at a depth of 4,000 metres, with its top standing just 1,000 meters from the surface and extending across more than 35 kilometers of the seafloor. The metals that can be found in its composition are, from lowest to highest proportion, barium, vanadium, nickel, lead, cobalt, and the one that is found in the highest proportion and the one that is most difficult to find in the rest of the world, the tellurium.

Tropic Mountain.
Tropic Mountain.

This last metal is especially important in the manufacture of electric cars, as well as other ecological elements such as solar panels. For this very reason it has been listed by both the European Union and the United States as a metal of strategic importance. The presence of this metal in the Tropic is approximately 6,000 times greater than that of the mining operations that extract it.

Although to a lesser extent, cobalt is also present in sufficient quantity to provide matter for more than 275 million electric cars, according to forecasts and calculations in the magazine Science based on the last expedition to the mountain, which dates back to 2016. Only in very specific points in Romania, Mexico, Australia and the USA are there higher concentrations of this metal.

However, the Tropic is the result of controversy due to its location, since lying 250 nautical miles from the lowest point of the Canary Islands, it is outside the exclusive zone of our country.

Delimitation of the territorial waters of Morocco (infographic prepared by ABC).
Delimitation of the territorial waters of Morocco (infographic prepared by ABC).

For this very reason Spain formalized a request to the UN to extend its sovereignty zone by 200 more nautical milesbut for this it is necessary for both Portugal and Morocco to accept, since their exclusivity zone would be reduced due to the Spanish gain, and the latter of both countries has been reluctant to do so, since two years ago it unilaterally presented one the extension of the delimitation of its territorial waters.

Electric cars promise to be one of the assets on which the European Union will rely in the search for energy self-sufficiency and its independence from Russia and China. For this reason, sites such as Las Navas, or all those scattered throughout Europe, are becoming increasingly relevant in the media and social sphere given the economic potential they hide.

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