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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Europe’s largest rare earths deposit found in Sweden

18/1/2023

Scientist using magnifier to study rare earth oxides Photo: LKAB
The discovery of Europe’s largest known deposit of rare earth oxides in northern Sweden could help reduce the region’s reliance on China, which currently dominates the market, suppling 98% of EU demand in 2021

Photo: LKAB

Europe’s largest known deposit of rare earth oxides, over 1mn tonnes, has been discovered in the Kiruna area of northern Sweden by mining company LKAB. Although reportedly a fraction of the world’s 120mn reserves, the find is being hailed as important as it could help reduce Europe’s dependence on China for what is a key component in electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies such as wind turbines.

China supplied nearly 98% of European Union (EU) demand for rare earth elements, produced from rare earth oxides, in 2021, demand for which is expected to increase more than fivefold by 2030, according to the European Commission.
 

Commenting on the news, Sweden’s Minister for Energy, Business and Industry, Ebba Busch, said: ‘Electrification, the EU’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in this 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 has a lot to offer. The need for minerals to carry out the transition is great.’
 

However, based on current permitting processes, LKAB expects it will be at least 10–15 years before the Per Geijer deposit can be mined and raw materials delivered to market. Company CEO Jan Moström, notes: ‘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.’