Sweden has discovered the largest rare earth deposit in Europe, which is used in everything from mobile phones to missiles.
Although they are not particularly uncommon, they frequently co-occur in nature and are challenging to distinguish from one another.
The lanthanide series and (typically) scandium and yttrium are a group of chemically related metallic elements that make up rare earths.
Since rare earths are not currently mined in Europe, a Swedish official lauded the discovery as a chance to lessen the EU’s reliance on China.
Given the anticipated increase in demand for electric cars and wind turbines, the discovery is also being viewed as “decisive” for the green transition.
In 2021, the EU utilised over 98% of rare earths that were imported from China.
The extreme north of Sweden is said to have seen the discovery of more than one million tonnes.
The EU’s dependence on China is discussed in The Scramble for Rare Earths on BBC Sounds.
Despite being considerable, that only makes up a small portion of the 120 million tonnes of reserves that are thought to exist worldwide.
A group of 17 elements together referred to as rare earths are utilized to create a variety of goods and infrastructure that are becoming more vital to daily living.
Hard disks, trains, and mobile devices all contain them. However, they are also crucial for environmentally friendly technology, such as windmills and electric cars. For example, some are necessary for missile guiding systems in military equipment.
Extraction is challenging and may have negative environmental effects.
By 2030, the need for them is anticipated to grow five-fold.
Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market, predicted last year that lignum and rare earths would soon surpass oil and gas in importance.
Swedish Energy Minister Ebba Busch claimed the EU was “far too dependent on other nations for these minerals” and emphasized a change was required during a press conference on Thursday.
She stated that “electricity, the EU’s self-sufficiency, and independence from Russia and China will start in the mine.”
According to Jan Mostrom, CEO of the LKAB mining business, the freshly discovered raw resources might not be available for purchase for another 10 to 15 years. Evaluations of the environmental risks throughout the permitting procedure take time.
To ensure more mining of this kind of raw material in Europe, Mr. Mostrom urged authorities to expedite the procedure.