LKAB, an international mining and minerals group headquartered in Luleå, Sweden, has announced the discovery of deposits of rare earth metals – exceeding one million tonnes of rare earth oxides – in the Kiruna region of Sweden. This would be sufficient to meet a large part of the EU’s future demand for the manufacturing of permanent magnets that are needed for electric motors in electric vehicles and wind turbines, for example.
“This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region and the Swedish people, but also for Europe and the climate,” stated Jan Moström, president and Group CEO, LKAB. “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.”
No rare earth elements are currently mined in Europe, with the continent highly dependent on Chinese imports of these minerals. According to the European Commission’s assessment, the demand for rare earth elements for electric cars and wind turbines, among others, is expected to increase more than fivefold by 2030.
“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. Politics must give the industry the conditions to switch to green and fossil-free production. Here, the Swedish mining industry have a lot to offer. The need for minerals to carry out the transition is great,” added Ebba Busch, Swedish Minister for Energy, Business and Industry.
The road to possible mining of the deposit is long; the first step is an application for an exploitation concession for the Per Geijer deposit in order to be able to investigate it further at depth, and investigate the conditions for mining. The plan is to be able to submit an application for an exploitation concession later this year.
LKAB has already started to prepare a drift, several kilometres long, at a depth of approximately 700 metres in the existing Kiruna mine towards the new deposit in order to be able to investigate it at depth and in detail. The company anticipates that it will take several years to complete this investigation and reach the conditions for profitable and sustainable mining. Only then, it was added, will the company proceed with an environmental review application and apply for a permit.
“If we look at how other permit processes have worked within our industry, it will be at least ten to fifteen years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market. And then we are talking about Kiruna, where LKAB has been mining ore for more than 130 years. Here, the European Commission’s focus on this issue, to secure access to critical materials, and the Critical Raw Materials Act the Commission is now working on, is decisive. We must change the permit processes to ensure increased mining of this type of raw material in Europe. Access is today a crucial risk factor for both the competitiveness of European industry and the climate transition,” added Moström.