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Sweden discovers biggest rare earths deposit in EU

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Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB has announced the discovery of Europe’s largest rare earth metal deposit. The discovery boosts the continent’s ambition to reduce its dependence on imported raw materials needed for its environmental transition.

The deposit, called Per Geijer, is located north of the Arctic Circle in the Swedish province of Lapland and contains more than one million tonnes of rare earth oxides, making it the largest deposit of its kind in Europe, the company said. says.

Speaking at the company’s existing iron ore mine in Kiruna (itself the largest mine in the EU), CEO Jan Mostrom said that to see what the deposit contains He said it would take several years. “We have ongoing exploration activity in this deposit, which means it’s open to us, it’s not closed. We don’t know how big it really is,” he said at a press conference. Added.

Moström stressed that regulatory challenges lie ahead as the company seeks to capitalize on the findings. “If we really want to pursue the transition to the environment, we have to find a way to significantly speed up this process,” he said.

Rare earth deposits, contrary to their name, are fairly common in various regions, but the most difficult part is the extraction of the minerals, due to complex processing and intensive environmental impacts.

Mostrom said it takes 10 to 15 years for raw materials to reach the market, but this timescale could be shortened by more than 50% if the permitting process at Swedish and EU level can be accelerated. The company plans to submit an application for mining rights this year.

More than 80% of the world’s rare earth processing capacity is currently in China, and the EU expects demand for rare earths used in electric vehicle motors and wind turbines to increase fivefold by 2030.

The mining company’s announcement came during a visit to Kiruna by the European Commissioner. Sweden6-month rotating EU presidency.

EU is Improving raw material self-sufficiency It is at the top of the agenda as it seeks to curb its reliance on China and Russia and boost its ambitions to boost homegrown green technologies, including wind power and car batteries.

The European Commission is working on plans to lower regulatory barriers to the mining and production of critical materials such as lithium, cobalt and graphite needed for wind farms, solar panels and electric vehicles.

The task is made more urgent amid a standoff with the United States over a $369 billion inflation cut bill.

The US plan has sparked fears of a trans-Atlantic outflow of green investment from the EU, with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Cruz this week calling for an “aggressive” US effort to woo EU companies. expressed dissatisfaction with

Some Member States are skeptical about how far the EU can reduce its reliance on imported raw materials and refined products, given the regulatory hurdles, and are skeptical that mineral-rich continents such as the South and emphasizes the need to stick to a free trade agenda aimed at unlocking trade in America.

As the EU seeks to sign an agreement to renew the 2002 agreement, Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis stresses the need to expand the EU’s network of free trade agreements, pointing to Chile and its large lithium stocks. bottom. The EU also hopes to reach an agreement with Australia, another of her raw material powerhouses, by next summer.

“Having a broad network of FTAs ​​is a source of diversification and therefore resilience.” Dombrovskis told the Financial Times: last year.

Northern Sweden is home to one of the world’s largest green industrialization projects. Several large battery and steel plants utilize the region’s surplus renewable energy. As a result, the area turned into a boom zone as investment flooded in and companies such as Northvolt, Facebook and H2 Green Steel moved to the area.

However, the amount of power required for the project is enormous. His LKAB plan alone to produce sponge iron without the carbon needed for steel consumes his third of Sweden’s power resources.

Additional reporting by Richard Milne of Oslo

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