Northern mines could provide most of the EU’s strategic metals

A new report from the Nordic Council of Ministers says Greenland and Arctic Europe holds almost all the minerals the bloc has deemed critical.

By Kevin McGwin - October 19, 2021
A tunnel in the iron mine at Kiruna in Sweden is reinforced. The existence of a functional mining in northern Scandinavia puts the region in place to be able to supply the raw materials the EU needs for a low-carbon economy. (LKAB)

Greenland, northern Scandinavia and parts of Iceland — together with the wider Nordic region — are a potential source of nearly all the metals the European Union has identified as crucial to the bloc’s development of a low-carbon economy, a review published by the Nordic Council of Ministers has found.

“The Nordics have a unique position to take the lead within sustainable mineral and metal production” the review concludes.

Much of the region’s potential is linked to the wide swaths of mineral-rich areas located there, but the existence of functioning mining and processing industries in Norway, Sweden and Finland add to the region’s attractiveness.

The review warns however, that financing, logistics and other barriers could prevent even the most promising projects from ever coming online.

[Sweden moves to update Sámi reindeer laws in the wake of a landmark land-rights decision]

As an example, it points out that Greenland’s enormous deposits of rare-earth minerals may be a less attractive business case than a smaller rare-earth deposit that is currently being developed in southern Sweden.

Similarly, opposition from Sámi groups, who have opposed mining activity that threatens their way of life, could put some mineral deposits out of reach.

This is a concern the EU sought to address in the most recent version of its policy for the Arctic, which identifies the region as a potentially significant supplier of what it calls critical raw materials — while also touting the industry as a driver of economic growth for its communities.

The policy pledges to respect Indigenous rights as it seeks to secure sources of critical raw materials. But Sámiráđđi, a group promoting Sámi interests, has warned that it sees “many obstacles” to expanded mining on land used by reindeer herders.