China, Vietnam, Brazil, and Russia corner the market on rare earth deposits, with China substantially in the lead with more than 60% of all rare earth production.
Sweden has announced the discovery of a large deposit of rare earth oxides in the Kiruna area in the far north of Sweden. We use rare earth minerals in applications such as EVs, wind turbines, portable electronics, microphones, speakers, phones, TVs, computers, and batteries. The two elements found in Sweden are neodymium, and praseodymium, which we use to produce very strong magnets used in very high temperatures, specifically in electric vehicles and wind turbines.
The LKAB identified more than one million tons of resources and will make applications necessary to develop the site. The application process is lengthy and considers things like the impact on water resources and biodiversity. There will also need to be a way to process the metals once mined. It’s likely to take 10-15 years before they can actually mine the deposit.
So far, rare earth minerals have not been mined in Europe, forcing EU dependency on Russia and China. China generates a large portion of the world’s rare earths. The find also creates an alternative source for western nations and NATO, away from China’s control. Since China produces materials used in U.S. military applications, this is potentially critical for U.S. national security.