the discovery of a rare earth deposit arouses the concern of the indigenous populations

In this smoothly conducted communication operation, nothing was left to chance. From the fingernails of Industry Minister Ebba Busch, decorated with the chemical symbols of iron and lithium, to the decor – 500 meters underground, in the Kiruna mine, which provides 80% of the iron ore produced in Europe – and the timing: on 12 January, a few hours before the European Commission arrived in Kiruna, when seventy foreign journalists were already there, invited to the launch of the Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union.

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At the end of the morning, the president of the LKAB mining company, 100% controlled by the Swedish state, announced the discovery of the largest known deposit of rare earths in Europe. What charm Brussels, which is worried about the growing dependence of Europe vis-à-vis China, the world’s leading producer of these minerals, essential to the ecological transition.

According to LKAB calculations, the Per Geijer deposit (named after a Swedish geologist), located north of Kiruna, contains at least one million tonnes of rare earth oxides, in addition to the equivalent of one quarter of Europe’s phosphorus needs and 400 million tonnes of iron ore. Its existence has been known for a long time, but the company only recently started drilling there to analyze the concentration of rare earths.

In 2022, LKAB had already announced its intention to reprocess the mining waste from the Kiruna mine, to extract the precious minerals. Surprise: the tests carried out on the Per Geijer deposit revealed a concentration “seven times higher [que dans la mine principale] in rare earth oxides »reveals Anders Lindberg, the company’s spokesman.

News welcomed in euphoria

For the moment, however, no production date has been advanced. Jan Moström, the CEO of LKAB, estimated that the schedule will be “extremely dependent on authorization processes”. “In the worst case, we are talking about ten to fifteen years, which is the average time to start a new mine in Sweden”says Lindberg.

In the Scandinavian kingdom, the news was greeted with euphoria. This discovery “shows that Sweden has a glorious future as a mining nation”rejoiced Ms. Busch, while on social networks the Swedes maliciously congratulated themselves on seeing their country finally able to compete with neighboring Norway and its hydrocarbon-rich basements.

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