China is a major supplier of ingredients to the EU, which could make it more important than oil or gas.
The Swedish state mining company announced that it has discovered the largest ever-discovered deposit of rare earth elements in Europe. This raises hopes that the continent can lessen its dependence on China.
Mining company LKAB announced Thursday that it had discovered at least a million tonnes of rare earth oxides within the Kiruna region, in the far northern part of the country.
Jan Mostrom, CEO of the company, stated that “this is good news, both for LKAB and the region, and the Swedish people but also for Europe, and the climate.”
Rare earth metals are critical components of permanent magnets used in motors for wind turbines and in batteries for electric vehicles.
The EU regards the metals as an essential component of its efforts to achieve climate neutrality by the middle century.
However, the bloc is heavily dependent on China at the moment. Nearly 98% of all imports come from this Asian powerhouse.
Last year, EU president Ursula von der Leyen announced plans for a Critical Raw Materials Act. She stated that rare earth metals would soon be more valuable than oil and gasoline.
Ms von der Leyen stated that China was using its market monopoly as a “geo-political instrument” and promised to reduce the bureaucracy surrounding mining projects within the bloc.
Fivefold increase in demand for earth metals
EU estimates that the bloc’s need for rare earth metals will grow fivefold by the end of the decade, as more member states create wind farms and electric cars are purchased.
There is currently no rare earth mining going on in Europe.
Local protests have stopped plans to mine a southern Swedish deposit.
LKAB warned that it could take ten to fifteen more years to complete various planning stages and be able to withdraw the deposit.
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