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Rönnbäcken project eyes strategic status to bolster EU’s Critical Raw Materials supply

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Bluelake Mineral AB (publ) (“Bluelake Mineral” or the “Company”) is advancing its nickel-cobalt project Rönnbäcken, which holds Europe’s largest known unexploited nickel resource. The project, situated in Sweden, boasts an estimated 600 million tonnes of mineral resources with an average grade of 0.18% nickel (Ni), 0.003% cobalt (Co), and 5.7% iron (Fe), as determined by SRK Consulting in 2022. According to a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) conducted by SRK, the Rönnbäcken project has the potential to annually produce 23,000 tonnes of nickel, 660 tonnes of cobalt, and 1.5 million tonnes of iron over a 20-year mine life. This substantial production capability positions Rönnbäcken as a key asset in enhancing the EU’s self-sufficiency in nickel and supporting the region’s industrial and energy sectors, particularly in the green transition and the European battery value chain.

Bluelake Mineral has applied for the Rönnbäcken project to be recognized as a strategic project under the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), which could expedite the permitting and financing processes. SLR Consulting has been engaged to advise Bluelake Mineral in this application process.

Strategic projects under the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA)

The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), effective as of May 23, 2024, aims to bolster the EU’s supply chain for critical raw materials by recognizing and supporting strategic projects that enhance the Union’s capabilities and diversify import sources. These projects are vital for mitigating supply disruptions and securing a steady supply of essential materials for various industries, including renewable energy and electric vehicle manufacturing.

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Application process and criteria for strategic status

The European Commission has opened the application process for the first round of strategic project recognitions under the CRMA. Project promoters can submit applications for projects involving the extraction, processing, recycling, or substitution of any critical raw material listed in Annex I of the CRMA. Strategic projects can be located within the EU or in third countries. To qualify, projects must meet specific criteria detailed in Article 6 and Annex III of the CRMA.

The timeline for the current application round is as follows:

  • Application period: Open from May 23, 2024, to the cut-off date of August 22, 2024.
  • Completeness check (September 2024): Submitted applications will be reviewed for completeness, with requests for additional information if necessary.
  • Assessment period (September – October 2024): Complete applications will be evaluated, and project assessment reports will be prepared.
  • Discussion and decision (Q4 2024): The European Critical Raw Material Board will review the assessment reports and provide recommendations to the European Commission, which will then make final decisions and notify the applicants.

Implications for Bluelake Mineral and the Rönnbäcken project

Securing strategic project status under the CRMA for the Rönnbäcken project would provide significant advantages for Bluelake Mineral. This designation would not only facilitate the permitting process but also attract investment and financing opportunities, thereby accelerating the project’s development. Moreover, the Rönnbäcken project’s potential contribution to the EU’s critical raw materials supply aligns with the broader objectives of the CRMA, including enhancing the EU’s strategic autonomy and supporting the transition to a green economy.

As the EU continues to navigate the complexities of global supply chains and strives to ensure a stable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, projects like Rönnbäcken will play a crucial role in achieving these goals. The application for strategic status represents a significant step forward for Bluelake Mineral and underscores the importance of strategic resource management in the EU’s energy and industrial sectors.

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