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The Nordic region emerges as a key player in the critical minerals supply chain

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The global demand for critical minerals—essential in the manufacture of modern technologies such as smartphones, electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, and defense equipment—is surging. With this, the critical minerals supply chain is gaining increased attention, not just for its economic potential but also for its strategic importance in ensuring national security and sustainability. Within this context, the Nordic region emerges as a key player.

The Nordic countries, particularly Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, are rich in a variety of critical minerals such as rare earth elements (REEs), cobalt, lithium, graphite, and nickel. These deposits are largely unexploited and can significantly contribute to global supply, reducing reliance on a few dominant suppliers.

The Nordic bedrock specifically, which comprises the ancient and varied rock formations found in the Nordic region, hosts over 43 million tons of economically viable deposits of the aforementioned critical minerals, as reported by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

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The Nordic countries are uniquely positioned as they have a long history of mining and have evolved stringent environmental and social standards over time, unlike other countries seeking to enter the critical minerals supply chain. Nordic governments have largely committed to low-impact, sustainable mining practices, making them a preferred source for industries looking for responsibly sourced minerals. The region is also well-equipped with the necessary infrastructure for mining, processing, and transportation, and skilled labor and technical expertise in mining and mineral processing.

The world is starting to take notice of the criticality of the region as research and development programs targeting critical minerals have continued to expand, which has led to the region playing host to over 30 companies in the battery and critical minerals supply chain.

Finland, Sweden, and Norway have also earned recognition in the Bloomberg New Energy Forum’s top eight countries favorable for critical minerals and battery supply chain development. Norway, Finland, and Sweden rank in the top 10 of the Fraser Institute’s list of the most attractive European mining investment jurisdictions. This ranking considers factors such as (1) best mining practices, (2) geological attractiveness, and (3) policy perception attractiveness, with responses measured on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 encourages investment, and 0 discourages it.

Responses are then categorized on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 representing a highly attractive jurisdiction and 5 representing a less attractive jurisdiction. More than 50% of respondents consistently rated Sweden, Finland, and Norway in categories 1 or 2 across 16 indicators, indicating encouragement or no deterrence to investment.

Greenland also received high scores, although concerns arose regarding its regulatory environment and infrastructure due to the lack of prior mining activity in the region. Sweden and Norway faced higher levels of concern related to permitting, environmental factors, and protected lands, reflecting their mineral strategies that delegate permitting authority to local jurisdictions. Finland faced milder regulatory concerns, reflecting its second-place ranking in the individual policy perception index.

Finland stands out among the Nordic countries as the most promising for value creation in the immediate term. Finland’s national battery and critical minerals strategy focuses on expanding its mineral extraction industry, particularly in lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite—resources it uniquely possesses in Europe. Finland’s appeal to foreign investors lies in its streamlined permitting processes, high-quality rural infrastructure, and a skilled minerals workforce of 30,000.

Sweden and Norway, with established mineral value chains due to their mining histories, attract less investment due to slower permitting processes influenced by environmental concerns in Sweden and protected lands in Norway. However, they offer opportunities for legacy corporations, particularly in downstream applications like battery pack and cell production and the development of processing facilities for near new mineral deposits, including rare earth elements (REEs).

In Finland, the Sibanye Stillwater Keliber project initiated the production of the region’s first integrated lithium facility chain, combining five demonstrated lithium resources with a centrally located processing facility. Strategically located near the Gulf of Bothnia, Sibanye Stillwater aims to create an exclusive worldwide collection of eco-friendly metals and energy solutions, with lithium playing a pivotal role in reducing global CO2 emissions.

The Keliber project in Finland enjoys a strategic location near rapidly expanding European markets for lithium hydroxide, a critical mineral input for battery production. Finland’s robust economic and social infrastructure adds to its appeal as an investment destination, supported by a National Battery Strategy outlining objectives for competitiveness and sustainability in the global battery industry.

With the critical mineral resource comes the rest of the supply chain. Corporations are increasingly taking notice of the opportunity to secure a low-carbon raw material supply in the region and including it as a part of their expansion plans for midstream and downstream critical minerals and battery production capacity.

In Sweden, Northvolt opened Europe’s first battery manufacturing facility, producing batteries for major automotive companies such as Volvo, BMW, and Volkswagen, with plans for a second facility set to produce up to 100 gigawatt hours annually. Hydrovolt in Norway recycles up to 250,000 batteries annually and is expanding into original equipment manufacturer (OEM) production.

Alongside Northvolt and its downstream customers, several key companies play pivotal roles at various points along the supply chain. Norwegian battery producer Freyr recently completed an initial stage battery plant in Mo I Rana, Norway, with plans for a giga factory on the same site and similar facilities in Finland and the United States. Freyr’s development plans connect the Nordic value chain to the global battery value chain through offtake agreements with Glencore, Itochu, and the local Finnish Talga Group.

The Nordic region, with its vast mineral resources, expertise, and commitment to sustainable practices, stands out as an indispensable up-and-coming player in the critical minerals supply chain. As the world transitions to cleaner technologies and seeks to diversify sources of critical minerals, the importance of the Nordic countries in this domain is only set to grow. It is imperative for industries, policymakers, and stakeholders globally to recognize and collaborate with the Nordic region, ensuring a sustainable, reliable, and resilient future for the critical minerals supply chain under the Northern Lights.

 

Source: Nasdaq

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