The new Per Geijer deposit contains up to eight times as much phosphorus compared to the orebodies currently mined by LKAB. With circular extraction of phosphorus and rare earth elements as by-products from iron ore mining, LKAB can potentially replace all imports of phosphorus to Europe from Russia. Phosphorus is one of three nutrients in mineral fertiliser and is necessary for our food production.
In the ReeMAP project, LKAB is developing circular solutions for extracting phosphorus and rare earth elements from today’s iron ore production. Europe has only one producer of phosphorus and produces no rare earth elements. LKAB can thereby improve Europe’s self-sufficiency and the Per Geijer deposit presents possibilities for significantly increasing LKAB’s contribution.”Per Geijer is an important complement to our mineral resources in Kiruna. Thus far, we have reported more than 400 million tonnes of mineral resources with high iron content. Our exploration efforts continue with the aim of defining the size of the deposit, which is open at depth and towards the north. What makes this deposit unique is the high content of phosphorus and, even though we have not yet completed our analyses, we have previously noted that the content of rare earth elements usually increases to the same extent as the content phosphorus. That gives us a unique opportunity to extract these critical raw materials in the form of an important by-product,” says Pierre Heeroma, Senior Vice President Exploration, Strategy and Business Development, LKAB.
Europe is dependent on imports of phosphorus and rare earth elements
Phosphorus is one of three three essential nutrients added to mineral fertilisers used in agriculture. Approximately half of all world agricultural production is dependent on this. Europe is 90% dependent on imports of phosphorus and Russia accounts for a significant share of phosphorus production. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the supply and prices of mineral fertiliser have become a major problem, which may result in high food prices globally and food shortages in poor countries. Consequently, phosphorus has been included on the EU’s list of critical raw materials. All of these raw materials are vital for our industry and economy, we are import-dependent on them and there is a great risk for disruptions in supply related, for example, to geopolitical risk factors. Rare earth elements are also included on the list of critical raw materials, none of which are mined in Europe. China dominates both mining and processing, while Europe is largely dependent on rare earth elements for manufacturing electric vehicles and wind power turbines, which are essential for our green transition.
Strong support for developing production of critical minerals
“We will extend our exploration activities of the Per Geijer ore during the coming years and our intention is to submit an application for an exploitation concession. Although there are challenges in establishing a new mine, which Per Geijer will be, despite the fact that it is adjacent to existing operations, we are seeing considerable interest in, and support for, our plans. This is not surprising, since Sweden has perhaps the world’s most climate-efficient and environmentally efficient mineral production, in which case it is only reasonable that we should assume responsibility for producing critical minerals for Sweden and Europe,” concludes Pierre Heeroma.