🇸🇪 Permitting will make or break the EU’s critical raw materials resilience

March 17, 2023

Press release from LKAB

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LKAB welcomes the European Commission’s proposal on the Critical Raw Materials Regulation. While the proposal provides encouraging signs that Europe is serious about reaching its climate goals by 2030 and beyond, it also shows that Europe still faces many challenges on the road ahead.

To boost the EU’s resource resilience, the European Commission proposes that at least 10% of the EU’s annual consumption of strategic raw materials (SRMs) should be extracted within Europe by 2030. LKAB supports an even more ambitious target, but it is questionable whether these goals can be met. The special requirements for mining, including land use in very specific areas, must be understood, and reflected in the EU legislation.

“A 10% target is far from being ambitious enough if we want to achieve resilience and secure value chains. This is even more important since further extraction of metals and minerals is going to be crucial in the years to come, as supply is recognised to become a major bottleneck for the green transition. But in the current regulatory environment where it’s very difficult to open a new mine and processing infrastructure, Europe won’t even reach the set target. Green tech starts in the mine,” says Niklas Johansson, Senior Vice President Communication and Climate at LKAB.

Earlier this year, LKAB announced that it had identified the largest known deposit of rare earth elements (REEs) in Europe and has recently started the public consultation process for a concession application to be filed later this year. In the current regulatory environment, LKAB has stated it would take at least 10 to 15 years to be able to start mining,if at all. The deposit is located in Kiruna, adjacent to where LKAB has been mining for over 100 years.

To speed up the permitting processes, the Commission suggests fast permitting timelines for “Strategic projects” and establishing national “one stop shops”. LKAB welcomes the approach but asks for clarification for the responsibility of the “one stop shops”. From LKAB’s perspective, it is necessary that the national “one stop shops” must take on the full responsibility for bringing clarity on the limitations of the environmental impact assessment reports and all other necessary documentation during the permit granting process.

“I can’t stress this enough. Either Europe finds a way to significantly speed up permitting processes and acknowledges the prerequisites for mining, or we risk putting yet another brake on the green transition that we all know needs more speed, not less. Europe cannot continue to rely on imports from countries where it has no oversight over environmental protection and human rights,” says Niklas Johansson.

LKAB is fully aware that driving such a Regulation in Europe should not come at the expense of the high environmental standards in mining or disregarding the voice of local communities. As a global frontrunner in the mining industry, LKAB has proven throughout the years its dedication to operate responsibly and with respect to the communities in northern Sweden and will continue to do so. In fact, LKAB is committed to applying some of the world’s highest environmental standards.

Furthermore, the European Commission has not classified phosphorus  as SRM, which LKAB thinks is a missed opportunity given that Europe is almost fully import-dependent on it for its food security.

Finally, in the case of LKAB, rare earths and phosphorus are by-products of iron ore mining intended to be recovered instead of becoming waste. LKAB therefore welcomes the Commission’s focus on the EU waste hierarchy by extracting critical raw materials from the extracted volume prior to it becoming waste.

Contact: Anders Lindberg, Group Media Relations Manager at LKAB, Tel: 46 (0)980 783 55. E-mail:[email protected]

LKAB is an international mining and minerals group that offers sustainable iron ore, minerals and special products. We are committed to developing carbon-free processes and products by 2045, leading the transformation of the iron and steel industry. Since 1890 we have developed through unique innovations and technological solutions and are driven forward by more than 4,500 employees in 12 countries. In 2022, the LKAB group had sales of about SEK 47 billion. nwww.lkab.com

Originally published on 16 March.

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