The core activity of European mining and exploration companies is to provide raw materials in the most resource and energy efficient way and, in this context ever developing technologies allow the continuous improvements and responses to new material demands. Neither the world nor Europe is currently or in the near future going to run out of mineral resources. Modern exploration technologies have allowed us in Europe alone to add more reserves to our nations’ assets than we have mined. Euromines member company LKAB currently brings an excellent example.
After having dramatically ramped up exploration activities, LKAB can now present the positive result: significant phosphorus mineral resources. “With a circular business model, we have the potential to supply European farmers with fossil-free and cadmium-free phosphorus mineral fertiliser, and the cleantech industry with rare earth elements” says Leif Boström, Senior Vice President Business Area Special Products, LKAB and Vice President of Euromines Steering Committee.
LKAB plans to extract apatite concentrate from the residual products of iron ore mining and to further process that to phosphorus mineral fertiliser, and in the process also extract REE’s, fluorine and gypsum. The phosphorus (P) content in LKAB’s ores is relatively low, up to 0.6 %. However, the total volume is significant and can increase Europe’s self-sufficiency with 50 %. Additionally, LKAB can become Europe’s first Rare Earth Elements (REE’s) producer and supply up to 30 % of the need.
The European mineral raw materials industry has made circular economy one of its top priorities, working to reduce and reutilise waste, transform waste into resources, improve efficiency of raw materials usage and improve the recyclability of products made from mined minerals and metals. Eco-efficient processes and products are also one of the priorities of the sector, reducing energy and material consumption.