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Europe's largest deposit of rare earth metals found in Lapland.

Published: 2023-01-13

Rare earth resources on Earth are gradually becoming more valuable. Batteries, magnets, electric motors and electronics of the 21st century are unthinkable without rare earth components. The more valuable is each deposit of such metals discovered on Earth, and it becomes invaluable when found in developed countries, where everything has been explored a long time ago. For example, as the largest deposit of rare earth metals in Europe, which has just been discovered in Sweden.

The discovery was reported by the Swedish state mining company LKAB. The found deposits contain more than a million tons of oxides of rare earth metals, which will be invaluable in the race for carbon neutrality and beyond. The raw material was found while exploring the Per Geijer deposit next to the Kiruna mine in Lapland, the largest and most modern underground iron ore mine in the world (which once again emphasizes the importance of working in the Arctic for Russia).

Today in Europe there is no mining of rare earth metals, although projects in this regard are being developed and they concern primarily the extraction of metal salts from mineral sources. China dominates in the field of mining and production of "metals of the XXI century", which accounts for up to 61% of offers on the world market. The USA is in second place, but this is only 15% of the market.

Of all the 17 rare earth metals known to terrestrial science, neodymium is in greatest demand today. In an alloy with boron and iron, neodymium becomes the strongest permanent magnet, which makes it possible to produce powerful and efficient electric motors, and these are electric vehicles, electric generators and robotics, not to mention promising methods for recording data on magnetic media.

But it is important to remember also about other uses of rare earth metals. Each car traction battery uses about one kilogram of rare earth metals, and each wind turbine uses up to 600 kg, according to Mining Technology analysts. And it is quite natural that the demand for such elements will grow rapidly over the next decades. It is impossible to give all this to China to a large extent, both for market and strategic reasons.

The discovery of a rare earth metal deposit in Sweden opens a window of opportunity for Europe. LKAB intends to start developing the field as soon as possible. At the same time, LKAB emphasizes that the process of obtaining a development permit adopted in the EU will not allow it to start supplying raw materials earlier than in 10 or 15 years, or even for a longer time. It is likely that in this area it will be necessary to urgently change the legislation, which will not be easy and painful for an extremely bureaucratic Europe.