The largest rare earth deposit in Europe has been discovered in the Swedish Arctic, which could help the continent break free from Chinese dominance in the resource market, Bloomberg reports .
The deposit, located north of the company's largest mine in the Arctic city of Kiruna, was found by the Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB. It contains over 1 million tons of rare earth elements. The full extent of the field is unknown while it is being explored, LKAB said in a statement. “It will be at least 10-15 years before we can start mining and supply raw materials to the market,” said Jan Mostrom, the company's chief executive officer.
In Europe, Sweden plays a key role in the renewable energy program. It already supplies about 90% of the continent's iron ore, most of which comes from the LKAB mines in the north.
Now Europe is almost 100% dependent on the import of rare metals from Asia. In 2020, The Wall Street Journal cited a report by American consultancy Horizon Advisory that said China was using its dominant position in the rare earths market as a tool to pressure the West. The Financial Times, citing a source in the Chinese government, wrote in 2021 that Beijing was considering how restrictions on the export of rare earth metals would affect the US defense industry.
Rare earth metals are present in the latest technologies, in particular they are used in the production of screens for computers, electric vehicles, high-tech weapons and wind turbines.