A Swedish mining company has discovered Europe’s largest deposit of rare earths — minerals used to make products like smartphones and electric vehicles.
In 2021, 98% of rare earths used in the European Union were imported from China, and Sweden’s Energy Minister Ebba Busch has said the find will reduce dependence on Chinese resources.
Rare earths are a group of 17 elements that are used to make products and infrastructure which are becoming increasingly in demand. They are found in a wide array of products, from mobile phones to hard drives, to wind turbines and trains. Some are also used for missile guidance systems. It is expected demand for these elements will increase fivefold by 2030.
As the elements are used for green infrastructure like electric vehicles and wind turbines, the find in Sweden has been hailed as a decisive step in the green transition. In 2022, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said rare earth elements would soon be more important than oil and gas.
Over one million tonnes are reported to have been found in the far north of Sweden.
Swedish Energy Minister Busch said at a press conference this week that the EU was “way too dependent on other countries for these materials.”
“Electrification, the EU’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine,” she added.
LKAB, the mining company which made the discovery, has warned that the road to extracting the resources would be “long” as it needs to submit for an exploration license and then conduct several more years of exploration before it can establish the full extent of the deposit.