The EU is dependent on the import of important minerals. EU’s raw materials initiative requires a lowered import need and a growth within self-sufficiency of metals and minerals for the Union. To provide the higher levels of self-sufficiency of minerals and materials within the EU needed for mobile phoned and batteries there needs to be, outside of recycling, an increase of exploitation of minerals within the Union. Northern Sweden has a key role in this with its unique supply of metal and minerals. EU’s access to raw materials is a vital part of its climate adaptation and will contribute in a number of ways in regard to reaching a climate neutral Europe.
The mineral market is in constant movement and prices and demand fluctuates a lot, but a clear current trend is the increased need for metals, in connection to the production of batteries. Batteries that will be used in electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels. There minerals have led to the EU creating a lift of so called critical raw materials- materials that are of certain importance for the growth and climate adaptation within the EU. The United States and Japan have also created lists like this. The list of critical raw materials is updated on a regular basis and the next update is expected in the spring of 2020 together with the EU’s new Industrial Strategy.
The European Green Deal connects the self-sufficiency of critical raw materials with the climate work by the higher environmental standards within European countries compared to the rest of the world. Improved working conditions in another reason that the EU sees as why new mining investments should take place within the EU. These prioritizations can be notices in a number of ways, for example within the financing policy of the European Investment bank where for the first time ever critical raw materials is mentioned. Within the same policy fossil project loans will be harder to attain and money have been set aside for investments in mining operations.
Northern Sweden has the right deposits for investments in green metals.
The EU: s own calculations estimate that China supplies 62% of the European available critical raw materials. Rare earth metals, lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite and magan are some of the critical raw materials that are available in Sweden and also are needed in the production of batteries. This leaves a role for northern Sweden to play on the EU arena. Not just through the battery factory Northvolt in Skellefteå, Västerbotten that is expected to generate 3000 jobs, but also through Talga Resources that are planning for a graphite mine in Nunasvaara at Vittangi in Norrbotten. The deposit in Nunasvaara has the highest graphite concentration found in the whole world. In Luleå the graphite will be ennobled and used as anodes in batteries for electric cars. The production, that is expected to generate a value of 40 million euro in the coming years, will start at the earliest in 2021.
Outside of battery production there are other branches connected to the mineral rich northern Sweden. Hybrit, a cooperation between LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall have found methods to process fossil free steal. The process of making steal from iron ore uses hydrogen gas instead of coke and carbon which in turn leads to the decay product becoming water instead of carbon monoxide.