Sweden Finds Large Rare Earth Metals Deposits Used in EVs and Wind Turbines

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Significant deposits of rare earth elements which are essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines are located in the Kiruna area, a Swedish government-owned mining company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) said.

The company reported that this is the largest known deposit of its kind in Europe with mineral resources exceeding one million tonnes of rare earth oxides.

The rare earth elements in Per Geijer occur together with phosphorus in the mineral apatite, in what is mainly an iron ore deposit.

The identified deposits would be sufficient to meet a large part of the EU’s future demand for manufacturing the permanent magnets that are needed for electric vehicles and wind power turbines.

“This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region, and the Swedish people but also for Europe and the climate… it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition,” said Jan Moström, President and Group CEO of LKAB.

According to the European Commission’s assessment, the demand for rare earth elements for electric cars and wind turbines is expected to increase more than fivefold by 2030.

Currently, no rare earth elements are mined in Europe, coupled with expectations of a dramatic increase in demand as a result of electrification which runs the risk of global undersupply.

The continent is dependent on imports of these minerals, where China dominates the market, thereby increasing the vulnerability of European industry.

“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 Minister for Energy, Business and Industry, Ebba Busch.

A Long Road to Mine

It is expected to take at least another 10-15 years before the process of mining can begin and the delivery of raw materials to the market can take place.

A change in the permit process to ensure increased mining of rare raw materials in Europe becomes crucial for both the competitiveness of European industry and the climate transition said Moström of LKAB.

LKAB is currently exploring the deposits and their studies show an increase from 400 million tonnes of mineral resources with high iron content to over 500 million tonnes of existing operations in Kiruna.

Additionally, the deposit contains up to seven times the grade of phosphorus compared to the orebodies that LKAB mines in Kiruna today.

Phosphorus is one of three nutrients in mineral fertilizers necessary for food production and is on the EU’s list of critical minerals.

LKAB has started to prepare a drift, several km long, at a depth of approximately 700 meters in the existing Kiruna mine to be able to investigate it in detail but has not been able to see the full extent of the deposit.

However, promising results from the ongoing exploration in Kiruna and Gällivare were presented.

Last year in July, the European Commission announced it would invest €1.8 billion (~$1.804 billion) in 17 large-scale innovative clean energy projects worldwide.

In 2020, the World Bank Group released a report that said demand for key minerals used in clean energy technology could grow almost 500% by 2050 to meet growing demand.