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Major discovery: LKAB finds Europe’s largest rare earth minerals in Sweden

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Swedish mining company LKAB has made a groundbreaking discovery, identifying what is believed to be the largest deposit of rare earth minerals in Europe. The significant find, located in the Kiruna area of northern Sweden, is expected to boost the European Union’s efforts to reduce its reliance on China for essential mineral resources, according to CNN.

LKAB estimates the deposit contains over one million tonnes of rare earth oxides. These minerals are crucial for the production of electronics and clean energy technologies. Jan Moström, president and group CEO of LKAB, described the discovery as “good news, not only for LKAB, the region, and the Swedish people but also for Europe and the climate.”

Europe currently imports all of its rare earth elements, with no local mining activities. The market is heavily dominated by China, which accounts for 60% of the world’s production of these critical minerals, according to the U.S. Geological Service. Furthermore, 98% of the rare earth minerals imported into the European Union come from China, as stated by the European Commission.

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In her 2022 State of the Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the increasing importance of rare earth elements and lithium, predicting they would soon surpass oil and gas in significance. The European Union aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, a goal underpinned by securing sustainable sources of essential minerals, reports The Washington Post.

The discovery in Sweden offers a promising step towards local mining of rare earth elements, a development particularly timely given the current energy challenges associated with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Electrification, the European Union’s self-sufficiency, and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine,” stated Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Ebba Busch, as reported by CNN.

LKAB intends to apply for a mining permit later this year. However, the company has indicated that it could take 10 to 15 years before mining operations commence and raw materials are delivered to the market.

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