Europe's largest rare earths deposit discovered in Sweden: firm
by AFP Staff Writers
Kiruna, Sweden (AFP) Jan 12, 2023
Europe's largest known deposit of rare earth elements -- key for the production of electric cars -- has been discovered in Sweden's far north, Swedish mining company LKAB said Thursday.
LKAB said the newly-explored deposit, found right next to an iron ore mine, contained more than one million tonnes of rare earth oxides.
"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," LKAB's chief executive Jan Mostrom said in a statement.
"We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles," Mostrom added.
The full extent of the deposit has not been established yet.
Mostrom said it would likely "take several years to investigate the deposit and the conditions for profitably and sustainably mining it."
Asked when the deposit could actually be mined, Mostrom said at a press conference it would largely depend on how quickly permits could be secured.
But based on experience it would likely be "10 to 15 years", he said.
The find was presented as a delegation from the European Commission visited Sweden, which took over the rotating EU presidency at the start of the year.
Swedish Energy Minister Ebba Busch noted that the "need for minerals" is great as the EU is striving to transition to fossil-free production.
The European Union has agreed to phase out new CO2-emitting vehicles by 2035, effectively banning combustion engine cars.
"Electrification, the EU's self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine," Busch said.
Politicians must provide industry the conditions needed "to switch to green and fossil-free production," she added.
Rare earths: Vital elements in a high-tech world
The metals are crucial for electronics such as smartphones, computers and batteries as well as the cutting-edge technologies that could reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
- Are they really rare? -
Not really. With names like scandium, cerium, dysprosium and thulium, rare earths are a group of 17 heavy metals that are actually abundant in the Earth's crust across the globe.
Before the Swedish find, the United States Geological Survey had estimated there are 120 million tonnes of deposits worldwide, including 44 million in China -- by far the world's largest producer currently.
A further 22 million tonnes are estimated in both Brazil and Vietnam, while Russia has 21 million and India seven million.
But mining the metals requires heavy chemical use that results in huge amounts of toxic waste and has caused several environmental disasters, making many countries wary of shouldering the heavy financial costs for production.
They are often found in minute ore concentrations, meaning large amounts of rock must be processed to produce the refined product, often in powder form.
- Why are they special? -
Each of the 17 rare earths are used in industry and can be found in a wide variety of both everyday and high-tech devices, from light bulbs to guided missiles.
Europium is crucial for television screens, cerium is used for polishing glass and refining oil, lanthanum makes a car's catalytic converters operate -- the list in the modern economy is virtually endless.
And all have unique properties that are more or less irreplaceable or can be substituted only at prohibitive costs.
Neodymium and dysprosium, for example, allow the fabrication of almost permanent, super-strong magnets that require little maintenance, making viable the placement of ocean wind turbines to generate electricity far from the coastline.
Demand is set to soar even further: To meet its goal of replacing hydrocarbons and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, the European Union will need 26 times more rare earths than currently, according to a study for the Eurometaux producers' association.
- China's lead -
For decades, Beijing has made the most of its reserves by investing massively in refinery operations -- often without the strict environmental oversight required in Western countries.
China has also filed a huge number of patents on rare earth production, an obstacle to companies in other countries hoping to launch large-scale processing.
As a result, many firms find it cheaper to ship their ore to China for refining, further reinforcing the world's reliance.
The European Union gets 98 percent of its supply from China, the European Commission said in 2020, while the United States imports around 80 percent of its rare earths from China.
Amid growing geopolitical tensions between the West and Beijing, officials on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing for more rare earth production as well as new recycling technologies -- though few analysts expect a significant reduction on Chinese production anytime soon.
At the height of a US-China trade dispute in 2019, Chinese state media suggested that rare earth exports to the US could be cut in retaliation for American measures, sparking fear among a range of manufacturers.
Japan saw first-hand the pain of a Chinese cut-off in 2010, when Beijing halted rare earth exports over a territorial conflict.
Since then, Tokyo has pushed hard to diversify supplies, signing deals with the Australian group Lynas for production from Malaysia, and ramping up its recycling capabilities.
Riddle solved: Why was Roman concrete so durable?
Boston MA (SPX) Jan 09, 2023
The ancient Romans were masters of engineering, constructing vast networks of roads, aqueducts, ports, and massive buildings, whose remains have survived for two millennia. Many of these structures were built with concrete: Rome's famed Pantheon, which has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome and was dedicated in A.D. 128, is still intact, and some ancient Roman aqueducts still deliver water to Rome today. Meanwhile, many modern concrete structures have crumbled after a few decades. Rese ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.