Europe's biggest deposit of rare earth metals discovered in Sweden

The deposit is a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are crucial to enable the green transition.
Deena Theresa
Representational picture of rare Earth metal.
Representational picture of rare Earth metal.

Joaquin Corbalan/iStock 

Europe's biggest deposit of rare earth metals, measuring over one million metric tons, has been found in Sweden. The country's state mining company, LKAB, found vast amounts of rare earth metals in Kiruna, northern Sweden, known for iron ore mines.

The discovery is largely significant - these rare earth elements are used in the manufacture of electric vehicles, wind turbines, magnets for industrial use, optical lenses, and so on.

"This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition. We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles," Jan Moström, President and Group CEO of LKAB, said in a statement.

Europe's biggest deposit of rare earth metals discovered in Sweden
The rare earth metals were discovered in Kiruna.

No rare earth metals are mined in Europe

Another vital point to be noted is no rare earth elements are currently mined in Europe. At the same time, demand for the same is expected to increase drastically - according to the European Commission's assessment, the demand for rare earth elements for electric cars and wind turbines, among others, is expected to increase more than fivefold by 2030.

For now, Europe is completely reliant on imports of these minerals from China.

"Electrification, the EU's self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine. We need to strengthen industrial value chains in Europe and create real opportunities for the electrification of our societies. Politics must give the industry the conditions to switch to green and fossil-free production. Here, the Swedish mining industry has a lot to offer. The need for minerals to carry out the transition is great," said Minister for Energy, Business, and Industry, Ebba Busch.

Europe's biggest deposit of rare earth metals discovered in Sweden
The Per Geijer deposit.

It could take 10-15 years before LKAB can begin mining

The deposit, Per Geijer, is close to existing operations in Kiruna. As per the report presented by LKAB, Per Geijer contains rare earth metals in the form of rare earth oxides, which are used to produce rare earth elements. The oxides in Per Geijer occur together with phosphorus in the mineral apatite, an iron ore deposit, and could be produced as by-products. The discovery would be sufficient to meet a large part of the EU's future demand.

Most Popular

However, mining the deposit will take many, many years. LKAB has started to prepare a drift, several miles long, in the existing Kiruna mine towards the new deposit.

"We are already investing heavily to move forward, and we expect that it will take several years to investigate the deposit and the conditions for profitably and sustainably mining it. We are humbled by the challenges surrounding land use and the impacts that exist to develop this into a mine, and that will need to be analyzed to see how to avoid, minimize and compensate for it. Only then can we proceed with an environmental review application and apply for a permit," said Jan Moström.

Jan Moström added that it could take at least 10-15 years before the company can begin mining and delivering raw materials to the market.