The company today reported mineral resources of rare earth metals at its Per Geijer ore body exceeding 1 million tonnes.
"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 chief executive, LKAB.
Last November, LKAB took a majority share in Norwegian rare earth separations company REEtec AS,and will build its first factory in Norway.
The new factory will be built in southern Norway at Herøya, which will produce some 720 tonnes of neodymium and praseodymium. The factory will be completed by the second half of 2024. LKAB is planning a second factory to be built in 2026, which will begin operations in 2027.
The Swedish iron ore producer is now focusing on critical raw materials, as well on extracting and processing rare earth elements in addition to phosphorus in mine waste. For instance, it is trialling a new process that recycles mine waste to produce an apatite concentrate, with the eventual aim of producing phosphorus mineral fertilisers, rare earth elements, fluorine and gypsum.
The Kiruna orebody is one of the world's largest magnetite-apatite deposits. In March last year, the company announced that reserves have increased from approximately 700 million t to more than 800 million t, which means that the life expectancy of the current 1365 main level is extended from 2035 to 2046.
"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," said LKAB.
Sweden's minister for Energy, Business and Industry, Ebba Busch, added: "Electrification, the EU's self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine [Kiruna]. 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."