Swedish government-owned mining corporation LKAB has discovered the largest deposit of rare earth elements in Europe. The deposits were found in the company’s existing iron ore mines.
The deposits, Per Geijer, are located in Sweden’s northern Lappland province near the Arctic Circle. Per Geijer is estimated to contain more than 1 million tonne of rare earth oxides.
The useful rare earth elements such as cerium, yttrium, lanthanum and neodymium are used in everything, from smartphones to semiconductor chips to other high-tech products. These elements are vital for manufacturing items like electric vehicles, wind turbines, portable electronics, microphones and speakers. They are also needed for a transition to green energy. The elements can be commonly found in many ores and deposits, but their extraction is more difficult than other minerals.
China is the biggest producer of these rare elements. In 2021, it had over 50% market share in production and an 80% market share in processing. The recent discovery of these elements in Sweden presents Europe a chance to be self-sufficient in rare earth element production, eventually giving it a strategic and economic advantage.
However, LKAB would be several years before it would be able to assess what the deposits contained. It would take at least 10 to 15 years before the raw materials can be delivered to the market, as approval for new mining permits is a long process in Sweden and the EU.