Swedish government owned-miner Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) on Thursday said it has identified Europe’s largest known deposit of rare earth elements in the area of its Kiruna iron ore mine in northernmost Sweden.
According to the company, the site holds more than one million tonnes of rare earth metals in the form of rare earth oxides.
Rare earth elements are important for the production of electric vehicles and wind power turbines and are thus critical for the green transition. At the moment, no rare earth elements are mined in Europe, LKAB notes, with China dominating the global market.
“This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region and the Swedish people, but also for Europe and the climate,” said LKAB’ head Jan Mostrom.
The company, however, also said that the road to mining is long. The next step is filing an application for an exploitation concession, which the miner plans to do this year, so that it can investigate the mining conditions.
“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,” Jan Mostrom said and called for changing the permit processes to ensure increased mining of this type of raw material in Europe.
Meanwhile, on the occasion of the news and in view of the long road to mining, Gavin Harper, an expert at the University of Birmingham, said that the UK university is developing production facilities for rare earth magnets from secondary sources.
“A future strategy to secure technology critical metals for Britain will involve not only diversifying primary supply sources, but also developing a circular economy of technology metals through developing secondary sources of materials,” Harper said.
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