The exploitation of Portugal’s mineral resources

The Swedish state-controlled mining company LKAB has announced the discovery within the Arctic Circle, in a remote northern region, of a deposit totalling more than a million tons of the 27 metals which constitute the “rare earth” group of minerals.

These are essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles, wind turbines and all manner of other equipment essential for the green technology which will transform the European energy market.

Although the extraction process will be slow at first, eventual production will enable manufacturers to obtain this valuable resource (for which prices have rocketed in recent years) and thus replace dependence on supply from China and Russia.

The early return of the global inclement weather system known as El Niño is being forecast for the late summer of 2023. With it will come higher temperatures and longer periods of drought than we experienced during 2022.

If this proves to be correct, the conditions for the storage of water and limitations on its use will become even more critical and require strict regulation so that potability and irrigation for agriculture may be sustained.

These two factors have lent clout to the renewed voices of the citizens’ protest  movements which plan to stage in the seven districts where mining companies, nearly all foreign-owned, are seeking to conclude contracts before March for the exploitation of metals such as lithium and copper.

For example, the ‘Montalegre Com Vida’ Association has stated that the Environmental Impact Study for the Romano mine in its Morgade locality calculates that 10,000 m3 of water will be required daily if the projected production level is to be achieved and asks from whence will come this huge volume at a time when local reservoirs are at historic lows and wells to subterranean aquifers are showing depleted stocks.

Pressures upon the government – both by the EU and the international elitist corporations which largely decide the direction of the global economy – to sell off Portugal’s  strategic resources will continue.

The best that can be hoped for is a negotiated reduction in this exploitation by at least one-half over the next five years, with an unconditional provision for suspension should the threat of calamitous environmental deterioration become a reality, Portugal Resident writes.

A Norwegian study has found a “substantial” amount of metals and minerals ranging from copper to rare earth metals

A Norwegian study has found a “substantial” amount of metals and minerals ranging from copper to rare earth metals on the seabed of its extended continental shelf, authorities said on Friday in their first official estimates.

The Nordic country, a major oil and gas exporter, is considering whether to open its offshore areas to deep-sea mining, a process that requires parliament’s approval and has sparked environmental concerns.

“Of the metals found on the seabed in the study area, magnesium, niobium, cobalt and rare earth minerals are found on the European Commission’s list of critical minerals,” the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), which conducted the study, said in a statement.

The resources estimate, covering remote areas in the Norwegian Sea and Greenland Sea, showed there were 38 million tonnes of copper, almost twice the volume mined globally each year, and 45 million tonnes of zinc accumulated in polymetallic sulphides.

The sulphides, or “black smokers”, are found along the mid-ocean ridge, where magma from the Earth’s mantle reaches the sea floor, at depths of around 3,000 metres (9,842 feet).

About 24 million tonnes of magnesium and 3.1 million tonnes of cobalt are estimated to be in manganese crusts grown on bedrock over millions of years, as well as 1.7 million tonnes of cerium, a rare earth metal used in alloys, Reuters reports.

Europe’s largest deposit of rare earth metals is located in Sweden

LKAB has identified significant deposits of rare earth elements in the Kiruna area, metals which are essential for, among other applications, the manufacture of electric vehicles and wind turbines. Following successful exploration, the company today reports mineral resources of rare earth metals exceeding one million tonnes of rare earth oxides and the largest known deposit of its kind in Europe.

“This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region and the Swedish people, but also for Europe and the climate. This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition. We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles,” says Jan Moström, President and Group CEO, LKAB.

No rare earth elements are currently mined in Europe, at the same time, demand is expected to increase dramatically as a result of electrification, which will lead to a global undersupply, and this at a time of increasing geopolitical tensions. According to the European Commission’s assessment, the demand for rare earth elements for electric cars and wind turbines, among others, is expected to increase more than fivefold by 2030. Today, Europe is also dependent on imports of these minerals, where China completely dominates the market, a factor which increases the vulnerability of European industry.

“Electrification, the EU’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine. We need to strengthen industrial value chains in Europe and create real opportunities for the electrification of our societies. Politics must give the industry the conditions to switch to green and fossil-free production. Here, the Swedish mining industry have a lot to offer. The need for minerals to carry out the transition is great, says Minister for Energy, Business and Industry, Ebba Busch.”

A long road to a mine

At the same time, the road to possible mining of the deposit is long, where the first step is an application for an exploitation concession for the Per Geijer deposit in order to be able to investigate it further at depth and investigate the conditions for mining. The plan is to be able to submit an application for an exploitation concession in 2023.

LKAB has already started to prepare a drift, several kilometres long, at a depth of approximately 700 metres in the existing Kiruna mine towards the new deposit in order to be able to investigate it at depth and in detail.

We have not seen the full extent of the deposit.

“We are already investing heavily to move forward, and we expect that it will take several years to investigate the deposit and the conditions for profitably and sustainably mining it. We are humbled by the challenges surrounding land use and impacts that exist to develop this into a mine and that will need to be analysed to see how to avoid, minimize and compensate for it. Only then can we proceed with an environmental review application and apply for a permit,” says Jan Moström.

“If we look at how other permit processes have worked within our industry, it will be at least 10-15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market. And then we are talking about Kiruna, where LKAB has been mining ore for more than 130 years. Here, the European Commission’s focus on this issue, to secure access to critical materials, and the Critical Raw Materials Act the Commission is now working on, is decisive.  We must change the permit processes to ensure increased mining of this type of raw material in Europe. Access is today a crucial risk factor for both the competitiveness of European industry and the climate transition,” says Jan Moström.

Per Geijer – potential to become Europe’s most important mine for critical raw materials

Promising results from LKAB’s ongoing exploration in Kiruna and Gällivare were presented last spring. The deposit Per Geijer is in close proximity to existing operations in Kiruna. More extensive studies show an increase from 400 million tonnes of mineral resources with high iron content to over 500 million tonnes, and that the Per Geijer deposit contains up to seven times the grade of phosphorus as the orebodies that LKAB mines in Kiruna today. Phosphorus is one of three nutrients in mineral fertilisers necessary for food production and is on the EU’s list of critical minerals.

Today, for the first time, LKAB reports a Mineral Resource and further extensive studies in Per Geijer of assets amounting to more than one million tonnes of rare earth metals in the form of Rare Earth Oxides, which are used to produce Rare Earth Elements (REE). This would be sufficient to meet a large part of the EU’s future demand for manufacturing the permanent magnets that are needed for electric motors in, among other things, electric vehicles and windpower turbines.

The results are presented in accordance with the reporting standard PERC 2021, which is the prevailing international standard for LKAB.

The rare earth elements in Per Geijer occur together with phosphorus in the mineral apatite, in what is mainly an iron ore deposit and which may therefore be produced as by-products. It also creates completely different opportunities for possible competitive mining.

“LKAB is already planning a circular industrial park in Luleå with new technology for the extraction and processing of phosphorus, rare earth elements and fluorine based on today’s existing mining production. There, instead of landfilling the material, it can be used to create new, sustainable products. A production start is planned for 2027,” says Leif Boström, Senior Vice President, Business Area Special Products, LKAB reports.