Sweden’s LKAB believes it has made Europe’s largest find of rare earth metals, which are used in many high-tech products. A gold mine according to Govt.
– It is the largest known deposit in Europe. Vättern’s discovery at Norra Kärr is big, but it’s big, says Jan Moström, CEO of state-owned LKAB to TT.
The discovery was made near the already operational LKAB iron ore mine in Kiruna.
Earth metals are used in the production of everything from electric cars and hard drives to elevators and trains. LKAB has known about rare earth metals in the area for two years, but according to Moström, the extent of the deposit is unclear.
The iron ore located at the Per Geiger site in Kiruna has an unusually high concentration of rare earth metals. According to Mostrom, the rate is 0.18 percent. It can be small, but the ratio is usually given in ppm, which means parts per million.
LKAB estimates that the portion of the Per Geiger field that has been explored so far contains about 1 million tonnes of earth metals, but has not been fully mapped.
– Discovery is not limited. We have only studied a small part, says Moström. Thursday’s announcement had added impact as the entire EU leadership was in Krona over Sweden taking over the union’s presidency in the new year.
Green is key to change
Moström says the discovery is great news for the EU. China dominates the market today.
– There is a supply problem today, but the supply needs to increase now. China absolutely dominates both mining and refining, he says.
The European Commission is currently working on a project to contribute to the development of reliable supply chains for such rare commodities.
Materials are particularly important for green conversion; They are essential in the production of batteries for wind turbines and electric cars. The European Commission expects demand to increase fivefold by 2030, while the Union’s economy becomes greener and more digital.
In the gold mine
Sweden’s energy and business minister Ebba Busch called the discovery a “gold mine”.
– It has the potential to become an absolutely key element in the green transition, he said on Thursday. And, it’s big for Sweden, Bush thinks.
– We are showing that Sweden can really be a world leader, and we are leading the way for the entire EU in how to combine ambitious climate goals with economic growth, he added.
LKAB, with Norvik as its shipping port, requires a number of permits before it can begin extracting goods. This is expected to take several years.
– If you look at how other licensing processes have gone in our industry, it will be at least ten to fifteen years before we actually start extracting and putting products on the market, said Mostrom.
The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, has warned that without a secure and sustainable supply of the earth’s metals, the EU’s ambition for climate neutrality could be at risk.
The EU wants to avoid dependence on individual countries, as it does on Russian oil and gas.
– This has to change, Bush said Thursday.
– In the short term we need to diversify our trade, but in the long term we cannot base it on trade agreements alone. Electrification, EU self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China start with mining, he added.
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