Can Finland and Sweden help decarbonize EU economies?
Demand for key metals is booming. Geopolitical realities and pandemic-related supply chain issues are increasing the pressure on EU countries to proceed with mining activities of their own to decarbonize their economies.
The European Union wants to decrease its dependency on Russian fossil fuels while accelerating its decarbonization effort. Metals and critical raw materials will play a pivotal role. Minerals, especially lithium, are most needed for clean-energy technologies. Relevant mining activities are concentrated in Asia, Oceania and South America.
Finland and Sweden, the two European countries currently applying for NATO membership, have a long mining tradition and could help solve the EU’s deficit, but question marks remain.
“We are the most important mining countries in the EU. Sweden alone produces over 90% of all the iron ore produced in the EU, Maria Suner, CEO of the Swedish Association of Mines, Mineral and Metal Producers (Svemin), told DW. However, that’s just a little over a quarter of what the bloc needs, meaning that the EU still has to import 70% of its iron ore, she added.
Finland and Sweden also share the mineral-rich Fennoscandian bedrock. According to Suner, the solid rock beneath the Scandinavian and Kola peninsulas has the potential to provide everything that’s on the EU list of critical raw materials.
The European Commission compiled a list of critical raw materials (CRMs) in 2011. Economic value and supply risk are the two criteria used to determine the importance of the materials. The list is getting longer.
Russia and supply security
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the major reason for Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership, and arguably, to step up mining in the medium term.
Svemin’s CEO says the focus on mining increased due to the COVID pandemic and ensuing supply chain disruptions, but more so after Russia invaded Ukraine. It has added to the increase in demand, pushing raw materials prices to a new high.
China is the top producer of graphite and rare earth materials. According to data from the International Energy Agency, it also refines 87% of the rare earths, 65% of cobalt, 58% of lithium, and 35% of nickel. Russia is the second-most-important country in the world for nickel extraction and the third-most-important for cobalt extraction.
“If there’s more support for mining activities in Europe, I don’t see that as a result of Russian hostilities. It’s more a question of whether Europe has woken up to the fact that it lacks metals,” Pekka Suomela, executive director of the Finnish Mining Association (FinnMin), told DW.
Land competition is always an issue in Nordic regions with a focus on forestry. Increased mining is opposed by many environmentalists citing the need to protect biodiversity.
In March, when the Swedish government allowed the exploitation of the Scandinavian country’s largest unexploited iron ore deposit, Swedish climate protection activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement said Sweden was “waging a war on nature.”
Finland, Norway, and Sweden are the least densely populated countries in Europe, which might theoretically be a plus for mining activities. Nonetheless, many scarcely populated areas are protected.
“Almost half of the Swedish territory is reindeer herding area for the Sami people, the only Indigenous people in Europe,” said Suner. “But the area needed for mining is very limited and we know how to minimize the impact.”
In the EU, it can take up to 25 years from the exploration phase to the start of commercial mining. Svemin has proposed 27 reforms, including shortening the permission procedures. Worries about the medium-term environmental impact often clash with long-term decarbonization efforts.
While EU member states are responsible for mining legislation, Brussels deals with aspects related to health, water and land usage.
The current geopolitical situation might increase social acceptance, but caution is needed. According to Suomela, the European Union must be careful not to put too much pressure on any single country to avoid local resistance that could easily shift public opinion.
Another possible future obstacle has to do with energy prices. They remain fairly moderate in northern Sweden and Finland, well below the levels reached in central Europe. But an increase in mining activities requires coherent investments in energy assets.
“The mineral and mining sector is planning for a tenfold increase in electricity use by 2050,” Suner commented. “Additionally, we have other projects for battery production and fossil-free steelmaking. Such projects are not covered by the electricity production we have in Sweden today.”
Estonia, another country bordering Russia, is active in the cleantech supply chain, hosting the only commercial rare earth processing facility in Europe. The facility is owned by Toronto-based rare earth materials technology company Neo Performance Materials. The company launched an initiative in 2020 to expand the supply of rare earth feedstock to their Sillamae processing facility near the Gulf of Finland.
Constantine Karayannopoulos, Neo’s president and CEO, told DW that the war in Ukraine caused refining companies to look more closely at their global supply chains. “Neo is no exception,” he explained, recalling that its supplier in Kola, the Russian peninsula, had been a reliable supplier for over 40 years.
“Geopolitical considerations are always a factor, but our primary driver remains customer demand,” said Karayannopoulos.
Right now, it looks like demand will increase. According to the European Association of Metals (Eurometaux), lithium usage in clean technologies could increase by a staggering 2,109% by 2050. Demand for dysprosium, tellurium and scandium is expected to more than double over the next 30 years, DW writes.
Sweden gives green light to controversial iron mine
The concession to mine in Sweden’s far north sparked fury among activists and Indigenous people. Critics say the project would disturb traditional Sami reindeer herding.
The Swedish government has given a concession to the British-owned Jokkmokk mining company on Tuesday to mine iron ore on a large scale in the country’s north.
The remote site is home to the country’s largest untapped quartz-banded iron ore and rare earth materials.
Jokkmokk Iron Mines, owned by Beowulf Mining, first filed their application for the Kallak mine nine years ago. Even with the government’s concession, the company still has to win approval from a Swedish environmental court and is subject to a long list of conditions.
One of the conditions stated that initial construction must be done during particular times of the year to minimize the effect on reindeer herding.
Mining project ‘anti-nature’
Even so, the decision has sparked fury among activists who argue mining in the region will affect the local indigenous Sami people and their traditional reindeer herding practices.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who traveled to protest against the mine in Jokkmokk in February, tweeted: “Sweden today confirmed its shortsighted, racist, colonial and nature-hostile approach”, DW reports.
Sweden: UN experts call for scrapping iron ore mine
Two independent UN human rights experts called on Sweden to scrap a planned iron ore mine. They said the mine would create a significant amount of toxic waste on land used by Sweden’s indigenous Sami people.
Two UN human rights experts called on Sweden to scrap plans for an iron ore mine Thursday.
The independent experts, Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, a special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, and David Boyd, the special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, asked Sweden’s government to withhold a license for the proposed project.
They said the mine would create a significant amount of toxic waste and other contaminants and would cause “irreversible risks” to land used by Sweden’s indigenous Sami people.
The British company Beowulf Mining and Swedish subsidiary Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB are seeking permission from the Swedish state to go forward with plans for the iron ore mine.
The Sami have expressed concerns over the proposed mine and said it would disrupt reindeer herding, as well as hunting and fishing, and destroy the land.
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg joined a protest organized by the Sami people against the proposed mine over the weekend.
“The future of humanity should be prioritized above the short-term profit of a company,” Thunberg said in a statement.
What concerns do the UN experts have?
The mine, proposed for the Gallok region, has gone forward without the “free, prior and informed consent” of the indigenous Sami people, the UN’s independent experts charged.
The rights experts said the proposed open-pit mine could endanger the lives and livelihoods of Sami people, as well as interrupt the migration of reindeer that the Sami herd for sustenance.
The experts pointed to a law passed by the Swedish authorities on January 27, which has yet to go into effect but states that the government is required to consult with the Sami people over actions that concern them.
In a statement, the experts noted: “There has been insufficient assessment and recognition of the environmental damage the mine will cause.”
UN rapporteurs work on a voluntary basis with a mandate from the UN-backed Human Rights Council. They do not represent the UN in an official capacity.
Who are the Sami people?
The Sami are indigenous to the Sampi region of a part of Sweden historically known as Lapland.
An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Sami people live in Sweden, of an approximate total of 100,000 Sami residing in Sweden and in the vast Arctic wilderness of northern Finland, Norway and the Kola peninsula in Russia.
Their lifestyle is at risk because of industrial mining and forestry, which encroach on their grazing lands.
For much of the 20th century, the Sami people were targeted by state policies that treated their culture as inferior.
In recent years, the governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden — but not Russia — have moved to atone for a brutal past by returning artifacts stolen from the Sami people and stepping up efforts to examine past policies against them.
The Sami people maintain that their rights go unrecognized and their lands remain vulnerable to exploitation as governments court foreign mining companies, DW reports.
Copper mine in northern Sweden scales up resource estimates
The wind mills could symbolise the main reason why it is economical profitable to reopen the old mine beneath the ground at Viscaria outside Kiruna: A growing demand for copper in a world moving towards an electrified society.
Copperstone Resources this week announced revised and enlarged ambitions for the reopening of the Viscaria copper mine in Kiruna, northern Sweden. The estimate for yearly milled-rate production is now 3 million tons annually, compared to earlier assumptions of 2 million tons. That will be enough to produce 30,000 tons of copper per year.
Increased production, combined with growing demand and higher prices on the world market, gives a boost to the company’s annual net profit, now estimated to be between 3 to 4 billion Swedish kroner (€294 to €393 million) annually.
The underground copper mine, located next to Europe’s largest iron-ore mine, was originally started by LKAB in 1983. Two years later, the mining was sold to Outokumpu who extracted ore until closure in 1996 following a collapse in global copper prices. At the time, the Viscaria mine was Europe’s largest underground copper mine.
Favourable global market
With ambition to restart mining by 2023, Copperstone Resources says the global copper market is favourable, with prospects of long-term imbalance of supply and demand.
Copper is a key metal for a world on path to find sustainable solutions for electricity production in times of climate crisis.
“It is very gratifying that we gradually are making progress in the restart of Viscaria mine and that the team efforts and the promising market conditions have enabled a better and more sizeable project than we previously estimated. Moreover, our growing team of experts constantly finds new solutions that gives a more optimized and sustainable production”, the company’s CEO Anna Tyni said in a statement.
Restarting the mine would bring some 200 new jobs to Kiruna.
Sweden: Talga has started trial mining at its Vittangi graphite project
The trial mine, operating under a three-year permit issued by the Environmental Review Commission within the Norrbotten County Administration Board, covers the extraction of 25 000 t of graphite ore from Talga’s Niska South deposit at Vittangi.
Trial mined ore will be subsequently refined into the Talga’s flagship lithium-ion battery anode product, known as Talnode-C, for large scale production testing in the electric vehicle supply chain, the company said on Wednesday.
Trial mine operations are scheduled to begin in mid-September and in this first phase of the campaign, some 2 500 t of graphite ore will be extracted before the site is rehabilitated for the northern hemisphere winter.
The balance of the permitted 25 000 t graphite ore is planned to be accessed in 2022.
“The trial mining of our Niska South deposit will allow Talga to begin testing Talnode-C samples on a mass production scale”, said Talga MD Mark Thompson.
“The graphite anode products created from the ore will help progress Talga’s battery manufacturing customer qualification trials and market testing towards future expanded commercial production”.
Canadian Zinc Company is Focused in Sweden
Zinc is perhaps one of the most undervalued resources when it comes to investment opportunities — being bypassed for more favourable commodities such as precious metals including gold and silver — however, what investors might not realise is that the base metal was one of the best-performing commodities in 2020 and continues to rally well into 2021.
Case in point, the metal started the year at US$2,779.85 per tonne and has surged to $2,951.85 per tonne as of June 2021.
In addition to zinc’s surging price value, the commodity is also the fourth most commonly used metal in the world after iron, aluminum and copper. Although global production of zinc was down 6 per cent last year to 13.7 million metric tonnes, it is estimated that production will only rise to 1.53 million metric tons by 2027, or an increase of only 1.67% per year, potentially falling short of demand growth.
Some of zinc’s primary uses include: galvanizing steel and other alloys used in all kinds of fabrication and construction, die-casting in the automobile industry, pigment in paints and skin protection in sunscreen. New zinc-air flow battery technologies promise to store industrial size energy from wind and solar farms that cost a fraction of lithium-ion batteries in compact more efficient systems.
As zinc prices continue to rally over the coming years, there are companies in the exploration space that will be ramping up their efforts to meet the increasing demand.
One such company is Norden Crown Metals Corp. (TSXV:NOCR, OTCQB:NOCRD, Forum), a Canadian mineral exploration company focused on the discovery of silver, zinc, copper and gold deposits. Hosted in the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden, Norden’s projects include: Gumsberg, with high-grade silver VMS targets and a “Broken Hill” type discovery, and Burfjord, an IOCG exploration project joint-ventured with Boliden AB (Sweden’s largest mining company).
Patricio Varas, executive chairman and CEO with Norden Crown Metals, told Stockhouse Editorial that Norden Crown Metals is an exploration company with Scandinavian projects that have been mined in the past but have not been thoroughly explored using modern exploration methods and technologies.
As an example, this strategy allowed the company to make a significant “Broken Hill” type discovery at the Frederiksson Mine (Gruva) target on their Gumsberg project that had not been mined since the 1970s.
The focus in Sweden
Sweden has a deep history when it comes to mining, dating back thousands of years. Present-day, mining in the country continues to advance thanks to technological mining advancements and low sovereign risk and a strong minerals profile.
Varas explained that Norden’s reasons for exploring in Sweden are because it is well known as a friendly mining jurisdiction with world class prospectivity and ample infrastructure to support exploration and exploitation. For example, Sweden has six ore smelters while there are just two in Canada.
Smelters are industrial installations that buy and process ores from mines and then separate the ore into its metal components, such as zinc, for sale and distribution to multiple industries and metal exchanges.
Varas added that Sweden has excellent road access, railways and water supply. The country also has the cheapest power in Europe thanks to the abundance of hydroelectric power.
All of the above, coupled with a stable political environment, the ability to work year-round and the streamlined process for getting permits make Sweden an excellent country in which to do business.
The Fredriksson Gruva Prospect
As it currently stands, Norden Crown Metals is primarily focusing its efforts on the Fredriksson Gruva prospect, located within the Gumsberg project.
At a broader scale, The Gumsberg project contains five exploration licenses in the Bergslagen Mining District in southern Sweden, which spans over 18,300 hectares where multiple zones of Volcanogenic Massive Sulfide-style (VMS) and “Broken Hill” type mineralization has been found.
VMS mineralization on the Gumsberg project has been mined as far back as the 13th century and all the way through to the early 1900’s with over 30 historic mines present on the property; including the Ostrasilverberg Mine, which was the largest silver mine in Europe between 1300 and 1590.
Although the region has an extensive production history, little modern exploration has taken place on the project.
Varas said the company believes the Fredriksson Gruva is “a very interesting prospect” thanks in part to it being a “Broken-Hill” type deposit. “Broken-Hill” type deposits represent many of the most profitable ore deposits in the world.
As Varas explains, “Broken-Hill” type deposits are rare and were first discovered in Australia at Broken Hill, New South Wales. The original Broken Hill deposit contained the largest accumulation of lead, zinc and silver on earth.
The company has already drilled three holes into the Fredriksson Gruva Prospect, hitting mineralization in every hole averaging 11 metres in thickness with the thickest intercept at 13.6 metres in thickness.
In a press release from March discussing the results, the discovery holes intersected significant mineralized widths ranging from 8.15 to 13.60 metres of precious and base metals, massive and semi-massive sulphide mineralization. Additionally, a geological setting unique to mineralization belonging to the Broken Hill Type clan of silver-rich zinc-lead-ore deposits.
The company’s drilling program, which totaled 569 metres, was part of an 11-hole 2,365.6 metre diamond drill program, which had the objective of demonstrating that mineralization continues beneath historical mine workings that extended to 91 metres below surface.
The program was to also confirm historical silver-zinc-lead grades and thicknesses and testing the continuity of this mineralization. Of note, an important aspect of the mineralization is that the massive-to-semi-massive sulphide intervals are developed with a broader sequence of highly magnetic iron and manganese-rich chemical sediments. As such, the distinctive and thick sequence of chemical sedimentary rocks will lay the foundation for an important marker horizon to be used to track the mineralization along strike and depth.
“This belt of mineralization extends on our property for at least 25 kilometres, and we’re very excited about it,” Varas said, adding that the Fredriksson property has now shifted to the company’s main project focus.
Moving forward, the company anticipates future diamond drilling at Fredriksson Gruva will continue testing the continuity of Broken Hill Type style massive sulphide mineralization following the marker iron formations below the historical mine workings. This is where ongoing 3D geological modeling indicates that silver-zinc-lead mineralization extends to at least 290 metres in depth.
What’s next for Norden Crown Metals
Varas told Stockhouse Editorial that Norden will be busy this summer and fall with the Fredriksson Gruva target and also at the Burfjord project in Norway, its joint venture with Boliden Mineral AB. Varas said Boliden has the potential to earn up to a 51 per cent interest in the property by spending US$6 million on exploration and development of the project over the next four years.
Boliden also has the potential to earn an additional 29 per cent interest in the Burfjord Project by solely funding additional advancement work through completing an NI 43-101 and PERC compliant feasibility study.
Varas told Stockhouse Editorial that Norden Crown Metals will be completing airborne and ground geophysics as well as mapping and sampling at Burfjord before beginning 3,000 to 5,000 metres of drilling.
In addition to summer drilling at Burfjord, the company wants to get a better understanding of the geology of the Fredriksson Gruva area and has crews presently in the field mapping and sampling. At the same time an airborne drone magnetic survey will also be done at the Fredriksson property.
“Once we have that data, then [the company] can do some modeling and make sure that the next drill holes will give us an idea of what we’re chasing,” Varas said, adding that in the mid-term the goal is to build up tonnage.
The Management Team
As the company moves ahead with exploration of its Fredriksson target and Burfjord project, investors in Norden Crown Metals should know that its management team is backed with experience that knows how to get the job done.
J. Patricio Varas, executive chairman and CEO
Mr. Varas has over 30 years of experience as a professional geologist working in exploration, project development and corporate management. He has worked at operating mines, exploration projects — from concept inception to discovery — feasibility studies of world-class deposits and mine development.
In addition, Varas also founded and led Western Potash Corp., as its president and CEO, where the company discovered and developed the world-class Milestone Potash deposit in Saskatchewan.
Varas was also instrumental in discovering the Santo Domingo Sur, deposit in Chile with Far West Mining and was integral in discovering the Diavik Diamond mine as a project manager at Kennecot Canada.
Dan MacNeil, vice president of exploration
Dan MacNeil has over 16 years of experience as a precious and base metals specialist with continental-scale project generation to in-mine resource expansion experience in a wide range of geological settings across the Americas and Eastern Europe. His expertise includes exploration strategy, target and opportunity identification, district entry strategy, business development, strategic evaluation of geological terranes and execution of target testing.
David Thornley-Hall, Vice president of corporate development
David Thornley-Hall is a senior executive with over 25 years of experience in the mineral exploration, mining and finance industries. He previously spent eight years with Western Potash Corp. as executive vice president and corporate secretary. Additionally, Thornley-Hall was a leading member of the Commercial Team at Western Potash where he was responsible for securing over $110 million in strategic equity investments in two different transactions.
Jeannine Web, CFO
Jeannine Webb has over 25 years of experience in the mineral exploration sector having served as a chief financial officer, corporate secretary and director for private, junior and small-cap domestic and international public companies.
Webb has a range of experience and skills in financial management and regulatory reporting and serves as CFO and corporate secretary for private companies and various Canadian venture companies with operations in Canada, the US and South America.
The investment opportunity
At present, Norden Crown Metals sits with a market capitalization of C$10.87 million and has just over 53 million shares issued. The company’s share price is currently $0.21, representing a 13.89 per cent increase year-over-year.
Thanks to its diversified and experienced management team, strong portfolio of projects and its “Broken Hill’ type discovery, Norden Crown Metals presents itself as a strong investment opportunity located in Scandinavia — which is a great, low-risk jurisdiction where year-round exploration programs can be undertaken.
Finally, Norden’s properties are located near active and historical mines allowing for rapid development, putting the company in a solid position to exploit a resource if discovered.
Source: Stock House