The discovery of deposits of large quantities of rare earths in Sweden marks the “beginning of the end of the dependency of Europe on China for rare earth materials which, for their widespread usage in hi-tech areas, is regarded as valuable as gold,” The Hong Kong Post reported.
With an abundant supply of rare earth, China at present enjoys a near monopoly on the supply of valuable geological assets, increasing the price of rare earth materials at will and using the mineral as a geopolitical tool. One million tonnes of rare earth oxide lie buried deep under the rugged reaches of northern Sweden above the Arctic Circle.
The discovery of rare earths in Sweden has been made by a government-owned Sweden iron ore mining company that mines iron ore in the Arctic Circle area, the LKAB. The company has described the find of rare earth as the largest known deposit of its kind in Europe, as per the news report.
“This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition,” The Hong Kong Post quoted LKAB CEO Jan Mostrom as saying in a statement.
The deposit comprises praseodymium or neodymium oxides, materials that are used to make the special magnets used in electrical vehicles. China has by far the largest amount of rare earth reserve of any country in the world, about 37 per cent, as per the news report.
With regards to refining and processing of rare earth, China accounts for over 60 per cent of all rare earth production, followed by the USA accounting for 16 per cent, Myanmar nine per cent and Australia eight per cent. The biggest deposit of rare earth identified so far is located in Bayan Obo of China.
Rare earth has become a key element in the trade war between the United States and China. China is aware that it has in its possession a powerful weapon in the trade war against the US. In order to threaten the world community, the Communist Party of China at one point had indicated that it was considering the idea of putting restrictions on the export of rare earth, according to The Hong Kong Post.
On January 20, the US administration announced that it is time for Sweden and Finland to become part of NATO, the discovery of a large deposit of rare earths in Sweden will place further pressure on China, as per The Hong Kong Post report. The military alliance feared by China will have a fresh supply of this critical raw material with many militaries uses too.
The discovery of large quantities of rare earth mineral deposits in Sweden is set to free Europe from dependency on China for the supply of what is considered one of the most critical resources, as per the news report. However, the Tibetans are worried that the availability of many rare earth minerals in the plateau will further encourage the Chinese authorities to exploit the mineral on a large scale and destroy the environment.