World Bank indicated that graphite, lithium, and cobalt production must increase by more than 450% by 2050
Last year, the World Bank indicated that graphite, lithium, and cobalt production must increase by more than 450% by 2050 to meet the demand for energy storage technologies. Is the energy transition in danger? Do we have to exploit resources massively in Europe to avoid becoming dependent on imports? Green MEPs have an alternative plan.
The following opinion piece is co-signed by three Green MEPs: Sara Matthieu (Belgium), Manuela Ripa (Germany), and Henrike Hahn (Germany).
Every so often, gloomy headlines warn us about looming shortages of critical metals required for the successful implementation of the Green Deal and reaching at least the Paris Climate goals. We witnessed this once again earlier this month, when the IMF alerted us to the possibility of soaring metal prices for cobalt and lithium, among others, due to exceptionally high demand expectations.
We need to take this challenge seriously. If substantially higher prices for metals such as lithium and cobalt persist through the end of this decade, as the IMF researchers imply, this bottleneck could effectively put the energy transition at risk.
Renewed mining frenzy
It comes as no surprise that the action plan on critical raw materials published by the Commission in September 2020 earned far more attention than its predecessors, as it tries to address supply risks for raw materials of high economic importance. In light of the Green Deal, it is clear why lithium, cobalt and a wide range of rare earth elements are included in the list of 30 critical raw materials.
It is also clear that this action plan acts as a catalyst to resuscitate mining projects for these critical raw materials inside and outside EU borders. While we should not dismiss these out of hand, we urgently need to draw a line when it comes to protected areas. In Portugal, for instance, 28% of the areas allocated for lithium exploration are inside nationally protected areas, such as the Serra da Argamela, part of a Natura 2000 area.
The status of Natura 2000 doesn’t provide any guarantees against mining operations, as evidenced by the attempts to extract rare earth elements at Norra Kärr in Sweden or the plans to mine copper and nickel deposits in the Viiankiaapa peatland in Finland. Other examples, such as San Finx in Galicia, point to the lack of specific environmental impact assessments on Natura 2000 areas. These examples show that public or economic interests put unique habitats in Europe at risk already today. This pressure will only increase as time goes on.
Three good reasons to preserve protected areas
Some policymakers argue that we need to “balance biodiversity and economic goals” to secure the metals required for the green transition. This is code language for opening up protected areas for large-scale mining. However, a more honest balancing act would require preserving the integrity of EU protected areas for three main reasons.
First of all, these protected areas are unique and cannot be replaced by definition, nor can they be restored afterwards. Keeping them intact is essential to avoid the further collapse of EU biodiversity. Secondly, we risk unleashing a massive popular backlash against the Green Deal and the ecological transition. Nature conservation is a priority for many EU citizens.
Third, endangering these crucial areas by starting new mining projects will not fundamentally reduce EU dependency on imported critical raw materials. In other words, the relatively small increase in capacity and economic gain simply doesn’t justify the destruction of unique culture and nature habitats in the EU.
Putting the challenge into perspective
Relatively speaking, we will need certain metals in much larger quantities for the energy transition. However, in absolute terms, the increase in demand is relatively modest. Take global lithium production, estimated at 86,000 tons in 2019. A 45-fold increase translates to a total of 3.8 million tons. That sounds impressive, but it corresponds to only 0.0016 % of iron production in 2019, estimated at around 2.454 million tons.
Secondly, green technologies are the key driver for only 6 out of 30 critical raw materials. According to a report by the öko-institut, commissioned by Henrike Hahn of the Greens/EFA, these six materials are cobalt, lithium, niobium, tantalum, heavy and light rare earth elements. Demand for most other critical raw materials is primarily driven by other sectors such as digitalisation, defence, aeronautics and even agriculture. Contrary to popular framing, the green transition only partly increases demand for critical raw materials.
Furthermore, an updated European Industrial Strategy with the Green Deal at its core needs CRM demand projections based on a sound methodological basis. Thus, the Commission should carefully review the criticality assessment methodology as the current assumptions lead to an inflated projection of future CRM demand.
“The Middle-East has oil, China has rare earth metals,” quipped Deng Xiaopeng in 1980. It’s no surprise that China built a robust industrial ecosystem in green technologies in recent decades. We believe Europe needs similar long-term thinking, even when we are faced with short-term challenges.
Most of the attention in Europe these days goes to exploration, financing and development of new mining in Europe and abroad, driven by the fear of looming shortages. While this is necessary, it should not detract from the overarching goal to switch to a circular economy while Europe builds the material stocks in new infrastructure.
Not only that, but it’s also a unique opportunity for onshoring a circular industry and creating new jobs. In the next 15 years, we can generate more than 10,000 jobs in the traction battery recycling sector alone, öko-institute estimates. Economically, this creates a better long-term perspective than exploiting protected areas, risking a massive popular backlash against the Green Deal in the process.
The Green Deal provides an excellent framework for all of this, now is the time to set the wheels in motion.
Europe needs to shift the focus away from mining certain metals
While certain metals, like lithium and cobalt, are essential for decarbonisation, Europe needs to shift the focus away from mining these materials towards reducing the amount needed and recycling what is used, writes Ann Dom.
Ann Dom is the deputy director of Seas At Risk, the European association of NGOs working to protect Europe’s seas.
The EU’s circular economy and raw materials policies fail to consider the need to leave metals in the ground and in the seabed. If we dig further and deeper into the Earth’s pristine areas – or indeed eventually mine the moon or asteroids –to satisfy Europe’s insatiable appetite for primary metals, then that much-hyped ‘circularity’ will only ever be illusory.
Our world is finally (and very belatedly) considering leaving fossil fuels in the ground. We should do the same for metals.
‘Security of supply’ of raw materials, particularly of certain metals seen as ‘critical’, is an increasing component of EU policy.
From the 2019 European Green Deal to the Raw Materials Action Plan and new Batteries Regulation, ‘access to resources’ and ‘strategic autonomy’ essentially call on the mining industry to find new reserves of primary metals. This includes the deep-sea – trials have taken place in recent months – and protected areas on land, including Natura 2000 sites.
Mining is one of the world’s most polluting industries and a main contributor to climate change.
The production of seven metals (iron, aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, nickel, manganese) is responsible for 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a major cause of biodiversity loss, human rights violations, political instability and forced displacement in the Global South.
At a time when the IPCC has issued a stark warning of how perilously close we now are to the 1.5°C danger limit agreed in the Paris Climate Deal, sacrificing entire ecosystems to fuel a new mining boom is at best careless, at worst criminal, and is entirely incongruous with the Green Deal’s ‘do no harm’ and ‘zero pollution’ mottos.
Europe carries a substantial share of responsibility for the growing demand for metals, using up to 20% of global mineral production for less than 10% of the world’s population. European policymakers have come to accept the growing demand for metals and the resulting mining boom as a necessary evil to bring about decarbonisation.
The much-needed transition to a carbon-neutral economy focuses primarily on technology and innovation fixes, such as the large-scale deployment of renewable energy infrastructure, electric vehicles and digitalisation, all of which are metal-intensive.
The Commission’s 2018 Strategic Action Plan on Batteries called for ‘embracing raw materials extraction’. The EU’s enormous appetite for resources’ is also acknowledged in the new EU Raw Materials Action Plan, which recognises how ‘the underlying problem … needs to be addressed by reducing and reusing materials before recycling them’.
There is, however, no sign of any serious binding targets to reduce Europe’s use of raw materials. Rather, as well as tapping into other continents’ resources, hundreds of new mines are being planned across Europe.
Equally damning is the fact that Europe is a major player in the race to the deep-sea bottom: several European countries hold deep-sea mining exploration licenses in international waters, with commercial mining expected from 2023. Others are considering mining on their continental shelf.
Circularity demands a strong political will to cut resource extraction. The status quo – relatively cheap metals flooding the market at huge environmental and human cost – provides no incentive to stop overconsumption and waste of metals in the Global North. Scarcity must be seen as the key to innovation and creativity.
Environmental destruction and the human impacts of mining can be relegated to the past. The social and technological solutions to make it a reality already exist: an end to technological, psychological and planned obsolescence, reparability, long-life product cycles, and built-in circular design for easy and economical disassembly of components for reuse and recycling.
Europe can significantly reduce its resource consumption by adopting binding EU and national material-footprint reduction targets and mainstream those into mobility, energy, digitalisation, industry, urban and housing policies.
The EU should also devise a much more ambitious Green Deal that aims for “growth without economic growth”, as the European Environmental Agency (EEA) recommends.
This requires deep changes in consumption and production systems and lifestyles to counter overconsumption (e.g. sharing economy, eradicating ads for cars and fast fashion).
For example, car-sharing – combined with much better provisions for walking, cycling and public transport – can minimise Europe’s car fleet, substantially reducing the demand for metals to turn the car fleet electric.
This is the sort of enormous potential for reducing resource demand that the EU should target, rather than continuing to embrace the old paradigm of raw materials extraction.
Most importantly, it means letting go of the ‘eternal economic growth’ paradigm and creating societies and economies that focus on well-being and care for the planet and people.
China’s dominance of strategic resources
Cobalt and germanium are all both rare ores and vital for the production of everyday items like smartphones, solar panels and electric vehicles.
The European Union has identified 30 such resources — which cannot currently be substituted — as crucial for the defense and renewables sectors, as well as in the manufacture of robotics, drones and batteries. Unlike steel, cement and oil, the global production of many critical raw materials amounts to just a few thousand tons per year. And it is controlled by only a handful of countries.
Where does all the ore come from?
Though not readily available across the globe, there are several critical resources hot spots. South Africa’s north has reserves of platinum and vanadium, while Congo is home to cobalt deposits and the United States extracts beryllium. China, meanwhile, has mining access to two-thirds of the different 30 critical raw materials, including antimony, baryte and rare earth elements. The unequal geographical spread of critical raw materials is reflected in market share. China is one of the top three suppliers of many of the elements, way ahead of the United States and Russia. This dominance is partly attributable to deposits across China itself, but it is also down to deliberate planning.
China’s plan to dominate the markets
“China has strategically developed mining and processing. […] These days it’s the Shanghai Metal Exchange that’s important, not the London Metal Exchange,” said Hanns Günther Hilpert, head of the Asia Research Division of the German think tank SWP.
“There is a quote from Deng Xiaoping: ‘The Middle East has oil, China has rare earths.’ But that was just the beginning.”
The 1987 quote by China’s former leader described the country’s global market dominance not only in the mining sector but also in the processing industry. Smelting, for example, is also primarily done in China.
“The country has built a know-how that is unique worldwide,” said Hilpert. “Even when alternative deposits are mined, most of the processing take place in China — before being exported abroad again.”
That makes China both the biggest producer of critical raw materials, but also the leading importer of those mined elsewhere. To secure yet further direct access, Chinese companies invest in foreign mines, extracting cobalt in Congo or platinum in South Africa. It’s a strategy Beijing applies to resources China lacks, as well as to those it has in abundance — such as fluorspar or silicon metals used in solar panels.
According to Hilpert, besides controlling supply chains of critical raw materials, China’s dominance has been facilitated by lax regulations that allowed it to neglect environmental follow-up costs and pay low wages. But this dominance is also obtained by the use of export restrictions and by offering subsidies for companies to build factories — all to promote its processing industry and technology providers. This allows China to fight off competitors. “Ultimately, the Chinese have been able to force other suppliers out of the market with ruinous price competition,” Hilpert said.
The 10 biggest suppliers cannot keep pace, and their collective share of global production is just 35%, as opposed to China’s 45%.
Risks for producers and purchasers
China’s dominance isn’t the only concern for future supply.
Many materials are mined in Asian or African countries characterized by civil unrest, corruption or authoritarian leadership. Cobalt is a prime example. Almost 60% of global supply originates from Congo, where internal conflict has been rife for decades. As such, cobalt is a so-called “conflict mineral,” meaning it is subject to closer public scrutiny by dint of being extracted in a place of unrest and sold to perpetuate fighting. There are question marks over the future supply of a further 10 critical raw materials quarried in countries with non-independent courts and high corruption rates. The concerns are around antimony, bismuth, gallium, germanium, light and heavy rare earths, which are mined in Tajikistan, China, Russia and Laos as well as magnesium, niobium, phosphorus and tungsten found in Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Russia and China. They can be seen in the bottom left quadrant of the following chart.
Experts agree their future supply could be affected by nepotism, undemocratic leadership, trading restrictions, civil unrest or even inner-state military conflicts.
The possible consequences for the processing industry include disrupted supply chains, high downtime costs for halted production and boycott calls by consumers when products are publicly associated with human rights violations. Such risks affect producers and buyers alike. Industrialized economies suffer from a lack of resources for future technologies, while mining nations stand to lose income and paid jobs. In 2019, for example, the Swiss mining company Glencore announced the closure of its Mutanda Mine in southern Congo due to higher taxes, rising costs, a lower world market price of cobalt and the increased pressure to stop importing the metal from a war zone. Thousands of workers could lose their jobs. However, these plans have not yet been implemented. The mine is “on maintenance,” Glencore said.
EU plan: Mining in Europe, a corporate alliance and the WTO
In its capacity as a buyer, the EU is currently developing a new strategy to ensure “open and unrestricted trade in raw materials,” said a spokesperson for the defense industry and space division at the European Commission.
“When other countries restrict the export of critical raw materials, the EU takes the necessary action to get the export restrictions removed,” the spokesperson said.
In 2012, Europe, the US and Japan won a case brought to the World Trade Organization (WTO), that forced China to drop export restrictions on critical raw materials.
In February of this year, following a request by the EU, the WTO established a panel to assess Indonesia’s export restrictions on raw materials.
To reduce its dependency on external suppliers, the EU is pursuing two main approaches. According to its 2020 action plan, the bloc proposes diversifying the sources of its raw materials — including though the use of deposits within the EU. The EU Commission spokesperson said member states have been asked to identify mining and processing projects within their territories “that can be operational by 2025.”
The mission of the European Raw Materials Alliance — a network largely consisting of mining companies — is to financially support existing new mining sites or to establish new ones “to increase EU resilience in […] value chains, as this is vital to most of EU industrial ecosystems, such as renewable energy, defence and space.”
The second main approach is to “reduce dependency through circular use of resources.” It’s disputed whether recycling will have a significant impact, or whether industries will ultimately have to find substitutes.
EU lithium and cobalt demand becoming harsh reality for metal-rich countries
The European Commission estimates that for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage, it will need up to 18 times more lithium and five times more cobalt in 2030 compared with now, and almost 60 times more lithium and 15 times more cobalt in 2050. At the same time, the commission is proposing to “accelerate and facilitate” procedures for the approval of mining projects in the EU and its neighbours, including the resource-rich countries of Central Asia. This is how demand for rare earth metals and raw materials translates into the EU’s green ambitions and shows that the cost of EU climate neutrality is being paid by those at the other end of the supply chain.
The European Green Deal is a bit like a game of tug of war. On the one hand, the EU has laudable aims of using the deal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, achieve a circular economy and reduce resource use. On the other, it will turn to countries outside the bloc to supply the raw materials needed to meet the demand for clean energy, renewables and other high-tech solutions at the forefront of its green development plans. But meeting the demands of industries and consumers at home is taking a toll on the people and nature at the other end of the supply chain, where materials are extracted. And these demands are massive.
A new Bankwatch report finds cases of environmental destruction and loss of livelihoods at metal mining and smelting operations globally, often backed by funds from the EU and other development lenders. One such example is the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia’s South Gobi desert. The project’s owners include EU governments via the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which together have lent over USD 1.4 billion.
Heavy human cost
As Mongolia’s flagship mine, Oyu Tolgoi is often advertised as a world-class, sustainable, safe and energy-efficient mining project that will provide copper to help meet the world’s growing communication demands. In reality, it has been subject to controversy on multiple occasions for affecting the livelihoods of herders by depleting water resources and fragmenting pasturelands.
Nomadic herders in the South Gobi were forced to relocate in 2004 from more than 20,200 hectares of pasture to make way for the mine, which threatened their livelihoods and traditional culture. In total, 11 herder families were physically displaced and 89 “economically displaced”, and qualified for compensation packages.
In 2012 and 2013, affected herders filed complaints to the International Finance Corporation’s Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO). One concerned the 2004 resettlement plan, the other demanded improved access to water and organisation of pasture resources. In 2015, Oyu Tolgoi acknowledged the “inadequacy of the resettlement process”. The herders, the Khanbogd Soum local government and the company then formed a Tripartite Council to resolve the complaints. By 2017, the Tripartite Council had signed a resolution agreement, and in March 2019, the CAO officially closed the case.
But critics argue that progress on the agreement is dubious, with only 29% of the commitments delivered on. Most commitments, including an improved monitoring programme and a 10-part Sustainable Livelihood Programme, have at least been put into motion. These include the establishment of a herder’s market and a livestock slaughter line, which can mitigate the impacts of losing traditional herding practices.
Reduced access to water
In addition to the loss of livelihoods, the Oyu Tolgoi project has impacted local water resources. In 2013 seven herders filed a complaint with the CAO, expressing concerns that the diversion of the Undai River might lead to the depletion of water resources in the region, as well as reducing the yield of pastureland. The claimants pressed for a stop to the diversion works and the distribution of appropriate compensation. These demands were bolstered by the independent experts panel employed by the Tripartite Council, which noted the irreversible impacts caused by the diversion works on traditional livestock husbandry. In addition to identifying issues caused by diversions, the report found that negligence in the construction of multiple wells may have contributed to the further depletion of water resources. As a result, the report points to irreversible loss of pastureland and subsequent fragmentation, which will likely continue to have significant impacts on traditional herding practices in the region. In 2017 various measures to mitigate the impacts of the Undai River diversion were agreed, such as the development of pasture management plans. The mining company committed to undertake a hydrological study of local water resources, build 12 new wells for herders based on this study, and maintain existing wells.
However, while the promised solar-powered wells were indeed built by June 2020, they were constructed without the company first conducting a hydrological study. The number of wells that Oyu Tolgoi committed to build is also significantly less than recommended.
Ending the push-pull
The case of Oyu Tolgoi tells a cautionary tale of how EU funding for mineral extraction has led to increased pressures on people and the environment where mines are located. Reducing pressures on locals and ecosystems must go hand in hand with the conditions placed on the most polluting industries. Getting there will require the European Commission to provide a clear vision and dedicate funds to overcome the problems related to the mining of raw materials.
The commission must incorporate policies that ensure the use of less-exploitative and toxic-safe technologies; the restoration of old mining sites; strict environmental, social and human rights due diligence for mining projects; and the right for the communities affected by the mines and surrounding facilities to have a say. The EU cannot push a European Green Deal at the expense of local communities, workers’ rights and biodiversity, especially in the face of the economic and social crises resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. This would be a raw deal.
Latitude 66 Cobalt finds fourth largest European cobalt deposit in Finland
In the eastern part of Lapland in Finland, Australian-Finnish mining company Latitude 66 Cobalt has found the fourth-largest cobalt deposit in Europe, with the highest cobalt density in the EU, the company announced.
The new discovery strengthens the position of Scandinavia as a raw material producer. Out of the twenty largest cobalt deposits in Europe, fourteen are situated in Finland, five in Sweden, and one in Spain. Finland is the biggest producer of battery metals and chemicals in Europe.
Cobalt is a vital ingredient in mobile phones, computers, and is used even for guitar strings. The demand is growing exponentially, especially due to batteries used in electric cars, which contain 36 kilos of nickel, seven kilos of lithium, and 12 kilos of cobalt. According to EU Commission estimates, the battery market in Europe this decade will be worth about €250 billion. Currently, most batteries are produced in Asia. The Commission has encouraged European battery production and there are plenty of on-going ventures. Likewise, the EU has emphasised the use of raw materials produced in a sustainable way, a strategy that Latitude 66 Cobalt markets itself on.
“We have had opportunities to invest in the African mining industry. That’s something we haven’t been willing to do. For example, I don’t believe big car manufacturers are in no way content with the current situation,” said company board member Russell Delroy in a statement.
Finland’s mining of the raw minerals for batteries sparks environmental concerns
Finland is the only EU country whose bedrock is known to contain all the major battery minerals — including cobalt and lithium — and the Nordic nation is drawing up plans to exploit these resources in order to become a major industry player. Yet the prospect of increasing mining is controversial in sparsely populated Finland, whose vast forests, diverse wildlife and pristine lakes are prized national assets.
Lines of trucks carrying piles of rock crisscross Finland’s rugged Terrafame mine, which sits 300km below the Arctic Circle and is Europe’s largest source of nickel for electric car batteries. At the immense, 60 square kilometer site, the extracted stone is crushed, heaped into vast mounds and fed with oxygen and water through red hoses, allowing the nickel, along with some cobalt, to gradually leach out.
“Even today more than 50 percent of our turnover is coming from the electric vehicle value chain,” Terrafame CEO Joni Lukkaroinen told AFP.
As Europe looks to counter Asia’s dominance in the fast-growing sector, Finland is one of the most active member states vying for a share of the lucrative battery business, but competition between EU countries is fierce.
Finland’s government has promised 300 million euros ($353 million) in stimulus for battery industry this year, and seven new excavation sites are among the commercial projects now underway to try and create a “battery cluster”. Mika Nykanen, charged with drawing up the government’s “battery strategy”, said the Nordic country’s approach “will be strongly grounded in sustainability and Finland’s climate policy goals”. But campaigners are worried that expanding mining in Finland will destroy sensitive ecosystems.
“You simply cannot produce these minerals in an environmentally friendly way,” campaigner Antti Lankinen told AFP, standing in front of a towering pile of waste rock on the perimeter of the Terrafame site in Sotkamo, central Finland.
Lankinen has worked with the Finnish Association of Nature Conservation to try and force Terrafame to change how it stores the waste rock, which it argues can cause acid runoff into the adjacent landscape if exposed to rainwater. The mine’s previous owners, Talvivaara, were prosecuted after an ecological catastrophe in 2012 when uranium and other toxic metals leaked into local waterways. However Joni Lukkaroinen, CEO of new owner Terrafame, said there have been no environmental issues since his firm took over the mine five years ago.
“We do have environmental impacts, but those impacts are in line with our permits,” Lukkaroinen said.
Elsewhere in Finland, campaigns have sprung up against new extraction in Lapland and in the Saimaa lake district, a tourism hotspot known for its unique wildlife.
“Lake Saimaa is Europe’s fourth largest freshwater system and is not a suitable area,” campaigner Miisa Mink told AFP, adding that four new prospecting permits have been granted in the area since May.
“If we’re not careful, sure we’ll have electric cars but we won’t have fresh water.”
A sustainable advantage
Yet battery industry leaders insist that Finland is a global pioneer in sustainable practices, and believe this will give it an advantage over its competitors. Terrafame’s mining methods, for instance, create a 60 percent smaller carbon footprint than traditional practices, the firm says. Meanwhile Finnish mines are bound by much tougher standards than in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than half the world’s cobalt is produced in conditions rife with child labor and human rights abuses, according to NGOs.
“There is no point buying an electric vehicle produced from raw materials that aren’t sustainable,” Finnish Minerals Group CEO Matti Hietanen said.
Despite Finland recently losing out to Sweden to host Northvolt with its $1bn “gigafactory” that is part-funded by Volkswagen, other foreign firms are choosing to locate to Finland, including Germany’s BASF and Belgium’s Umicore. Terrafame will also open a 240-million-euro refinery next year, producing enough nickel sulphate for 1 million electric vehicles, and cobalt sulphate for 300,000.
Car technology maker Valmet Automotive is one of the few Finnish manufacturers at the top end of the battery chain, and last year opened a plant to expand its production of finished battery packs for use in cars and industrial vehicles around the globe. On its shiny factory floor, lines of robots controlled by technicians in blue overalls assemble and screw components with intricate precision into large black casings.
“Pretty much every car and every model has a unique battery,” Jyrki Nurmi, senior VP for electric vehicle systems, told AFP.
Nurmi believes one area the company can make its mark is in its “off highway” production — batteries for the heavy duty vehicles used in construction, agriculture or logistics. Some industry watchers say that global supplies of cobalt, the most expensive of the battery minerals, are already running low and won’t stretch to meet future demand.
“We need materials out of the ground, but in the future I think a lot of our materials will come via recycling,” Nurmi said, adding that he is optimistic that his industry will become increasingly sustainable.
“It will take time,” he said, but “it will change in the future”.
Finnish-Australian cobalt mining company applies to mine 5700 square km of land in Finland
A Finnish-Australian mining company, Latitude 66 Cobalt, has applied to conduct cobalt mining operations in a territory spanning 5700 square kilometres in northeastern Finland. The company aims to secure exclusive extraction rights to an area that covers Lapland, Kainnu, and Koillismaa.
Finland is known to have the largest cobalt reserves in Europe, an increasingly valuable resource due to its application in devices such as electronic car batteries. Lattitude 66 has lodged an application with the intent to spend two years photographing and surveying the area, after which they would apply for the right to begin drilling.
Under Finnish law, mining companies are able to lodge a claim over a territory which prevents other companies from prospecting the same land. Should the company find significant deposits of cobalt, they would likely apply to begin drilling immediately.
The application comes at a time when environmental concerns over the impact of mining are increasing significantly among the public, with Finland’s position as one of the top mining destinations in Europe drawing growing criticism.
The application was also made on the same day that the Finnish parliament began debating a new piece of legislation that would increase payouts to landowners affected by mining activity. If passed, it is likely that the mining companies would face significantly higher costs when conducting operations in Finland. The legislation is part of a wider push to reexamine Finland’s Mining Act in order to offset the impact of mining activities on citizens and the environment.