“Mine waste becomes products the world needs”

December 22, 2023

There is a lot going on at LKAB and one of three key areas is critical minerals. We spoke to Ulrika Håkansson, project manager for the planned industrial park for the extraction of critical minerals, to find out what makes their work so exciting and what challenges they face.

Three key areas are leading the transition: new world standard for mining, carbon-free sponge iron and critical minerals. Tell us more about your area, critical minerals – what's going on?

—  There is a lot going on at the moment. LKAB is the main owner of REEtec AS and is taking a step forward in the value chain to separate rare earth metals from our mine waste. In addition, we plan to build a circular industrial park in Luleå to extract phosphorus, among other things. The EU is currently dependent on mineral imports, something we can and want to change.

Today's mining waste becomes tomorrow's resources. What does this mean?

—  The process of refining iron ore produces an enrichment sand, what we call mining waste. This waste contains a mineral – apatite, which contains both phosphorus and rare earth elements. Phosphorus is a component of mineral fertiliser, which in turn is essential for today’s food production, to keep food on our tables. Rare earths are used in electrification, for example in permanent magnets in electric motors.

What are the biggest challenges you see ahead?

—  One of the challenges we face is the permits for the apatite plant in Malmberget and the industrial park in Luleå. The permits are difficult to plan for and are important for us to be able to continue our work.

What is the best part of your job?

—  The best thing about my job is that it is so much fun. What we do feels important – we can use our waste to create products that the world needs. Also, I work with a team that inspires me every day.

Name: Ulrika Håkansson
Role: Project Manager ReeMAP
Lives in: Luleå
Family: Husband and two children
Background: Worked at LKAB since 2018. Studied civil engineering at KTH, specialising in roads and water.
Interests: All kinds of skiing. Uphill, downhill and cross-country. Likes to be in the mountains.