Swedish mining firm LKAB says it has discovered Europe’s largest deposit of uncommon earth oxides within the nation’s north, a discovery that would scale back the continent’s reliance on China for the important useful resource.
Uncommon earth minerals play a key function in producing clear power and producing electrical autos and shopper electronics. However the market is dominated by China, which accounts for 60% of world manufacturing, in accordance with the US Geological Service.
LKAB has recognized a couple of million tonnes of uncommon earth oxides within the Kiruna space, situated within the far north of the nation, the corporate mentioned in an announcement on Thursday.
“This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region and the Swedish people, but also for Europe and the climate,” mentioned Jan Moström, president and group CEO of LKAB.
No uncommon earth components are at the moment being mined in Europe, leaving it depending on imports. The European Union will get 98% of the minerals from China, in accordance with the European Fee.
However demand is predicted to surge because of electrification, which can result in a world “undersupply” at a time of accelerating geopolitical tensions, LKAB mentioned.
The corporate added that the area’s dependence on China for uncommon earth minerals will increase the vulnerability of European trade.
“Electrification, the European Union’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine,” mentioned Ebba Busch, Sweden’s minister for power, enterprise and trade, in the identical assertion. “We have to strengthen industrial worth chains in Europe and create actual alternatives for the electrification of our societies. “
Nonetheless, the highway to mining the deposits is lengthy, LKAB added. It plans to submit an software for a allow later this 12 months.
“If we look at how other permit processes have worked within our industry, it will be at least 10-15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market,” it mentioned.
Given its significance within the tech trade, uncommon earths have turn out to be one of many important fronts within the US-China competitors as effectively.
The USA, which has lengthy relied on China for the minerals, is searching for to strengthen its home provide chain to emerge as a dominant international participant. In 2021, the Biden administration focused uncommon earths, amongst different home provide chain priorities, to cut back the vulnerability of those industries to geopolitical pressure.