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Sweden’s state-owned mining firm unveils Europe’s largest rare earth find

LKAB announced on Thursday the identification of over 1 million tonnes of rare earth oxides in the Kiruna region of northern Sweden, marking the largest known deposit of its kind in Europe.

Rare earth minerals play a vital role in various high-tech manufacturing processes, including electric vehicles, wind turbines, portable electronics, and audio equipment.

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Jan Mostrom, CEO of LKAB, expressed enthusiasm over the discovery, highlighting its significance for the region, Sweden, and Europe as a whole. He emphasized its potential to contribute to the production of critical raw materials essential for advancing the green transition.

With rare earth elements not currently mined within Europe, the continent relies heavily on imports, a dependency that is expected to grow with the increasing demand driven by electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies.

Minister for Energy, Business, and Industry Ebba Busch emphasized the importance of the deposit for Europe’s electrification goals and reducing dependence on external sources like Russia and China.

Despite the promising find, the journey towards mining the deposit is anticipated to be lengthy. LKAB aims to apply for an exploitation concession by 2023, but mining operations are not projected to commence for at least another 10-15 years.

The approval process for new mines in Sweden is rigorous due to potential environmental impacts, necessitating thorough assessments to safeguard water resources and biodiversity.

Erik Jonsson, a senior geologist at the Geological Survey of Sweden, highlighted the need for Europe to develop full-scale processing capabilities for rare earth metals and intermediary products to capitalize on the discovery fully. This includes focusing on the entire value chain to produce essential components like high-efficiency magnets for wind turbines and electric vehicle propulsion systems.

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