LKAB moves towards a circular economy

November 21, 2019
Man in LKAB-clothing standing outdoors
Jan Moström, President and Group CEO, LKAB.

In collaboration with several other Swedish industrial companies, LKAB is taking major steps towards fossil-free production and a dramatic improvement in resource utilisation."As one of Sweden's oldest industrial companies, we look forward to strengthening the image of LKAB and Sweden by being a partner in Expo 2020," says Jan Moström, LKAB's President and CEO. The projects presented at Expo 2020 are global forerunners that show the visions that can be realised when big companies join forces and carry technological development forward.

Speaking at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for less conversation and more action to address climate change. Much is said about climate activities, but the actual concrete solutions are few and far between. That is why the work towards fossil-free mining and steelmaking that LKAB is participating in and leading is so important. The HYBRIT initiative, aiming at carbon-dioxide-free steelmaking with the aid of hydrogen, and SUM, Sustainable Underground Mining, a project for next-generation underground mining, have the potential to fundamentally change the rulebook for future iron ore-based steelmaking.

Construction of pilot plant

In Luleå a pilot plant is being built to test steel production that employs hydrogen instead of coal.

“This type of development is in LKAB’s DNA. Throughout our history, as a company, we have survived by adapting technologically and exploring solutions that have helped us to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Large-scale underground mining, straight forward long hole drilling, automated mine logistics and world-leading ore processing have given us a lead that we are now using to advantage to meet today’s major challenges,” says Jan Moström.

Leadership Group for Industry Transition

At the UN summit the governments of Sweden and India launched the so-called Leadership Group for Industry Transition. HYBRIT’s owners, LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall, are among selected companies heading the group, which will work to hasten the transition within several industry sectors so that others will choose a more climate-friendly path in line with the Paris Agreement’s targets while at the same time aiming for net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Sustainable mining at great depths

SUM, is a project in which LKAB, ABB, Epiroc, Combitech and Volvo Group are collaborating to set a new world standard for sustainable mining at great depths. Production in LKAB’s mines will be fully electrified, carbon-dioxide-free, digitalised and autonomous. This will now be tested in a physical research mine and in virtual test environments. In the ReeMAP project, LKAB is developing a process to recover residual products from mining and extract rare earth metals and phosphorus products from them. Potentially, use of the technology could meet Sweden’s annual phosphorus demand five times and cover two percent of global demand for rare earth metals.

Effective environmental permitting processes

To meet these major commitments, the industry must turn to society as whole. For example, HYBRIT requires enormous amounts of electricity to produce hydrogen. Research and development costs a lot of money and governments and the EU should be ready to fund it. Emissions trading must favour the most climate-effective solutions. Furthermore, the environmental permitting processes have to be more effective and foreseeable. LKAB has long seen this as a necessity.”If society, policy makers and industry players can embrace this collectively, then there is a very good chance that we are capable of achieving real action,” concludes Jan Moström.