These metals are essential for the manufacture of vehicles and electric motors, wind turbines, among others. Europe currently depends on imports of these minerals, whose market is completely dominated by China.
The Swedish state miner LKAB reported on Thursday the discovery of more than one million tons of rare earth oxides in the area of the city of Kiruna, in the north of the country. It is the “largest known deposit of its kind in Europe,” the company stresses.
“It could become an important component to produce the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the ecological transition. We are facing a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles,” said Jan Mostrom, president and director. LKAB Executive.
The chemical elements that make up the so-called rare earths are mostly essential metals for the manufacture of vehicles and electric motors, wind turbines and other elements necessary to exploit renewable energy sources.
Europe currently depends on imports of these minerals, which are considered critical in the region, and whose market is completely dominated by China. Meanwhile, the demand for them is expected to increase dramatically, and increase fivefold by 2030, as a result of increased electrification and the use of renewable energy, something that may lead to a global shortage of these supplies.
In this context, Europe, which currently does not extract rare earths, has an opportunity to achieve “self-sufficiency” in this field and “create real opportunities for electrification” of the continent, says Swedish Energy Minister Ebba Busch.
“Policy must give the industry the conditions to switch to fossil-free and green production. Here, the Swedish mining industry has a lot to offer. The need for minerals to make the transition is great,” he stressed.
A long way to go
LKAB announced plans to submit an application for the deposit exploitation concession this year. However, the company assures that it could take between 10 and 15 years before the process of extracting and delivering raw materials to the market can begin, taking into account other similar permit processes.
Faced with these conditions, Mostrom appeals for the need to “change the permit processes to ensure greater mining of this type of raw material in Europe.” “Access is today a crucial risk factor both for the competitiveness of European industry and for the climate transition,” he concludes.