Large deposit containing rare earth metals found in Sweden
The Swedish mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag, better known as LKAB, has reported the discovery of several large deposits containing rare earth metals, essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles or wind turbines. The deposits are located in the Kiruna area of Sweden.
Exploration has yielded mineral resource data of rare earth metals in excess of one million tonnes, making it the largest deposit of its kind in Europe. LKAB group president and CEO Jan Moström said:
“This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region and the Swedish people, but also for Europe and the climate. This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become an important component in producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the ecological transition.
We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles”.
This finding, makes Europe a great option to extract rare earth elements without having to rely on countries such as China, even more so given that, as assessed by the European Commission, the demand for such rare earth elements is expected to increase fivefold by 2030.
At the same time, the road to the possible exploitation of the deposit is a long one, where the first step is the application for a concession to exploit the Per Geijer deposit in order to be able to explore it further and investigate the conditions for exploitation. The plan is to be able to submit an application for a mining concession in 2023.
LKAB has already started to prepare a several kilometres long drift in the existing Kiruna mine towards the new deposit in order to investigate it in depth, as they report that they have not seen the full extent of the deposit. Moström says: “If we look at how other permitting processes within our industry have worked, it will be at least 10-15 years before we can start extracting and delivering raw materials to the market.
They claim that the assets amounting to more than one million tonnes of rare earth metals in the form of rare earth oxides that have been found, and which are used to produce rare earth elements (REE), would be sufficient to meet a large part of future EU demand to manufacture the permanent magnets needed for electric motors in, among other things, electric vehicles and wind power turbines.
LKAB is currently planning a circular industrial park in Luleå for the extraction and processing of phosphorus, rare earth elements and fluorine based on existing mine production. There, instead of disposing of the material in landfills, it can be used to create new, sustainable products. The start of production is planned for 2027.
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