Sweden’s LKAB mining group announced their discovery on January 12 in the Kiruna region of Sweden’s Far North. the largest known deposit rare earths from Europe containing more than one million tons of metal.
The discovery is important as Europe worries about its dependence on China, the world’s largest producer, for supplies of these minerals, which are used to make batteries for electric cars and wind turbines.
” It is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it can become an important building block for the production of critical raw materials absolutely essential for the green transition. “, CEO of LKAB public group Jan Moström, greeted in a press release. ” We are facing a supply problem. There can be no electric cars without mines he argued.
According to preliminary estimates, the Kiruna field, the main mining region of the Scandinavian country, contains more than 1 oil. one million tons of rare earth oxides “, but the company stresses that it has not yet quantified its exact scale.
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A very long-term view
” Long road LKAB warned that it should be done before being put into use. ” We believe that it will take several years to study the field and the conditions for profitable and sustainable exploitation. said Mr. Mostrom.
Asked at the press conference about the expected date of the first rods, he replied that it would depend to a large extent on the speed of obtaining operating permits, which, as experience has shown, is likely to be necessary. between the ages of ten and fifteen “.
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” Mine electrification, self-sufficiency and EU independence from Russia and China will begin “Swedish Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Energy Ebba Bush said.
This statement was made during the visit of the delegation of the European Commission to Sweden, which has held the EU presidency since the beginning of the year. Brussels announced last year that new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2035 amid efforts to curb global warming.
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What are rare earths?
Rare earths consist of 17 raw materials that were discovered in Sweden at the end of the 18th century, each with different properties. These elements are often grouped under the same name because they are in the same soil. After the ore is extracted from the ground, it must undergo a “separation” treatment, which is the separation of the various minerals through chemical operations, sometimes involving acids.
Rare earths are actually quite abundant on the planet. Before Thursday’s Swedish discovery, the US Geological Survey estimated world reserves at 120 million tonnes, more than a third of which was located in China. KU Leuven University has calculated for Eurométaux, the association of European rare metals producers, that the EU will need rare earth metals by this date to replace hydrocarbons and achieve carbon neutrality in 2050.
Each of these minerals has an industrial use, between europium useful for television screens, cerium for polishing glass or lanthanum for catalysts in gasoline engines. It can be found in a drone, a wind turbine, a hard drive, an electric car motor, a telescope lens or a fighter jet.