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Swedish mining company LKAB said on Thursday that it had identified significant deposits of rare earth elements in the Kiruna area in Sweden in what is the largest known deposit of its kind in Europe.
After a successful exploration stage, LKAB found that mineral resources of rare earth elements in the area exceed 1 million tons of rare earth oxides.
“This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition. We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles,” LKAB’s President and Group CEO, Jan Moström, said in a statement.
Europe doesn’t currently have mining operations for rare earth elements, leaving the continent to rely heavily on imports, especially from China.
“Electrification, the EU’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine. We need to strengthen industrial value chains in Europe and create real opportunities for the electrification of our societies,” said Sweden’s Minister for Energy, Business and Industry, Ebba Busch.
Despite the large deposit found in Kiruna, LKAB admits it faces a long road ahead in mining for those rare earth elements. The company plans to apply for an exploitation concession this year.
“If we look at how other permit processes have worked within our industry, it will be at least 10-15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market,” Moström said, calling for a change in the permitting processes “to ensure increased mining of this type of raw material in Europe.”
Last year, Europe started taking steps to reduce its dependence on China for critical minerals and rare earth elements crucial to the energy transition. According to the European Commission, China provides 98% of the EU’s supply of rare earth elements.
The EU has created the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA), which aims to make Europe economically more resilient by diversifying its supply chains, creating jobs, and attracting investments to the raw materials value chain. By 2030, ERMA’s activities are expected to increase the production of raw and advanced materials.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.