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28/02/2024
Mining News

LKAB expands Europe’s biggest rare earths deposit

Europe’s biggest deposit of rare earth elements (REEs) – Per Geijer in Sweden – is now 25% bigger, miner LKAB reported on Monday, announcing an updated mineral resource estimate.

Per Geijer, which is northeast of the well-known Kiirunavaara mine, contains a mineral resource of 734-million tonnes of iron-ore, with high iron content and more than 1.3-million tonnes of in situ rare earth oxides (REOs).

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The discovery, which is basically an iron-ore deposit with high levels of both phosphorus and REOs, was already the biggest reported rare earth deposit in Europe when it was announced in January this year.

“The fact that it is a complex deposit, with iron-ore as the base, makes it extra interesting. Without the iron-ore, it would not be viable to mine phosphorus and rare earth elements here. With what we see today, a future mining operation could provide an increase in service life of at least 20 to 30 years, it will be crucial to be able to continue operating in Kiruna,” says LKAB’s Jan Moström.

LKAB has applied for a processing concession, which if approved, will give LKAB the conditions to invest in the extensive studies required as a basis for decisions on possible future mining. In order to open a mine, a permit is also required in accordance with the Environmental Code from the Land and Environment Court.

“The permit process is beginning and having worked in the area for more than 130 years we are now seeking the first permit for Per Geijer, to give LKAB the exclusive right to continue investigating this fantastic mineralisation,” says Moström.

“We are experiencing an increased awareness of the need for metals and minerals for electrification and the green transition. At the same time, Europe’s high dependence on imports is a cause for concern both in industry and politics. In Europe, there is now talk of two years for permits for strategically important minerals such as those for the rare earth metals, but our experience is that it can take between 10 and 15 years to get through the complex Swedish trial system. The processing concession is only one part of this. So this will be an important test if the permit system manages to meet the expectations of the outside world,” says Moström.

The issue of lengthy and unpredictable permit examinations has been widely debated in recent years, and current and previous governments have promised reforms so that a critical climate transition does not fall on bureaucratic formal requirements without significance for the environment.

“We have a positive attitude towards strict environmental requirements and will take great responsibility for the impact that our operations cause. For example, there is concern about how reindeer husbandry will be affected by a new mine in the area, and we understand that. In addition, popular outdoor recreation areas are affected. We are still early in the process and there is a long way to go. We are responsive and have the ambition to solve the issues along the way. But we also need commitment from stakeholders and authorities in the process to move forward in a fast, efficient and legally secure way,” says Moström.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

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