According to author Axel Sjöqvist, Norra Kärr could help make the European Union self-sufficient in rare earth metals. At present, the block imports 98–99% of its demand for rare earth metals from China.
Since the Asian giant controls most of the global extractive operations and supply of REE, Sjöqvist believes that untapped deposits elsewhere must be studied carefully so that they are developed in an efficient manner.
“It is important to learn about the geological origins and development of these rock types and to identify the distribution of rare earth metals between different types of rocks and minerals,” the researcher said. “Knowing this allows us to efficiently use resources and facilitates future prospecting in Sweden and globally.”
In his view, there is a lack of reliable sources for many metals and minerals critical for innovations.
“[In China], they are produced in doubtful conditions for both humans and the environment,” Kärr said. “China has a global market monopoly, allowing it to control how much of these metals are available in the rest of the world. As a result, they also have indirect control over whether the EU succeeds in achieving its sustainability promises.”
Sjöqvist acknowledged that mining and mineral extraction always present challenges for the environment and even though the plans for exploiting the resource outside of Gränna have led to protests, the impact does not disappear as the metals continue to be imported.
Thus, he believes the ball is now in Sweden’s Land and Environment Court, which should decide if Leading Edge Materials’ new plan for mining in Norra Kärr can be done in an environmentally sound manner.
The project’s PEA shows target production of 5,341tpy REO, containing approximately 721t Nd-Pr oxides, 248t Dy and 36t Tb oxide contained within a mixed rare earth concentrate.
Leading Edge Materials plans to sell more than 50% of total mined material, accounting for the recovery of nepheline syenite, zirconium oxide and niobium oxide.