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Game-changer for Norway: REN unearths vast rare earth deposits in Telemark

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In a groundbreaking development for Norway and Europe, Rare Earths Norway (REN) has announced a significant discovery of rare earth metals in the Nome municipality of Norway’s Telemark region. According to a press release from REN, the deposit is estimated to contain approximately 8.78 million tons of rare earth metals, including crucial elements like neodymium and praseodymium oxide. These elements are vital components in the production of batteries, wind turbine generators, and military equipment.

This discovery marks a pivotal moment as Norway seeks to reduce its reliance on Chinese imports, which currently dominate the global market for rare earth metals. REN, following three years of intensive drilling and exploration, plans to commence mining operations by 2030 with the goal of supplying about 10% of the world’s increasing demand for these essential metals.

Alf Reistad, CEO of REN, expressed his enthusiasm, highlighting the potential economic significance of Norwegian rare earth metals, suggesting they could surpass the country’s traditional exports like natural gas.

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What are rare earths?

Rare earth metals constitute a group of 17 elements, including lanthanum, praseodymium and neodymium. These metals play indispensable roles in modern technology despite their exotic names.

REN’s discovery surpasses last year’s notable find in Kiruna, Sweden, previously touted as Europe’s largest. The Swedish discovery sparked discussions on expediting environmental permits for new mining ventures. Now, Norway emerges at the forefront of Europe’s rare earth supply.

Balancing economic benefits and environmental concerns

REN emphasizes sustainable mining practices in collaboration with partners such as Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria to minimize environmental impacts from extraction to manufacturing. Trond Watne, Chief Geologist at REN, views this discovery as a milestone that promises long-term benefits for the Nome community and Europe at large, including job creation and economic stimulation in Telemark.

However, environmental groups caution against potential ecological damage and stress the importance of stringent regulations. Truls Gulowsen from the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature underscores the need for responsible mining practices to safeguard the region’s natural beauty.

Economic and strategic implications

Local officials and European leaders alike are optimistic about the economic potential of Norway’s rare earth discovery. Sven Tore Løkslid, County Mayor of Telemark, hailed the discovery as transformative, likening rare earth metals to a new form of economic vitality comparable to oil. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has recognized the strategic importance of rare earth metals and lithium in Europe’s transition to sustainable energy, foreseeing a reduced dependence on external suppliers.

The rare earth metal discovery in Telemark represents a significant step towards bolstering Norway’s economic independence and contributing to Europe’s strategic mineral supply chain. As excitement mounts, stakeholders remain mindful of the imperative to balance economic gains with environmental stewardship to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

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