Discovery of a large rare earth deposit could increase Europe’s independence. Long road to commercial mining.
The Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB has discovered what it claims is the largest rare earth deposit in Europe in the far north of the country. More than one million tons of rare earth oxides comprise the deposit near the mining region around the city of Kiruna, according to a press release published Thursday. The discovery is good news for Europe and the energy transition, LKAB said.
The raw materials are needed for both wind power and e-mobility. Currently, China dominates the rare earth metals mining market. However, it is likely to take many years before the deposit becomes a mining operation. The time from discovery to commercial production has lengthened significantly due to permitting processes, from seven years to an average of 15 years today, according to S&P Global, former CEO of mining group Anglo American Mark Cutifani is quoted as saying. LKAB CEO Jan Moström also assumes a similar duration and advocates changes to the permitting process.
Sweden sits on a treasure trove of raw materials
Bureaucracy, but also environmental concerns regarding mining, are also slowing down the development of Norra Kärr, another Swedish deposit. There, the Canadian company Leading Edge Materials (LEM) has been trying for some time to obtain a license to develop the deposit.
Meanwhile, the extraction of raw materials alone is not enough, because the Chinese companies are currently also global leaders in the field of processing.