By Chris King •
Updated: 13 Aug 2023 • 20:57
Image of the Swedish city of Kiruna.
Credit: Arild Vågen/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
DUE to the discovery of what could be the largest rare earth mine in Europe, a city is being relocated in Sweden.
Kiruna, situated very close to the Arctic, is home to approximately 23,000 inhabitants. Around 6,000 of its residents will gradually be moved to a new location some three kilometres to the east after a rare earth mine was found right next to the city’s main iron mine late in 2018, as reported by svt.se.
The authorities intend to move all of the current buildings in Kiruna, one by one, to an alternative location in what has been called ‘New Kiruna’. Some central parts of New Kiruna were inaugurated in September 2022. Kiruna City Hall, known as the ‘Crystal’, was the first landmark to be completed when the project began.
This will involve 450,000 m² of 3,000 residential homes, plus public, commercial and leisure buildings all being moved, including the local Lutheran church that was built more than 100 years ago, in 1912.
It is estimated that this complicated process could take until 2035 to complete. Despite the fact that the inhabitants want to continue preserving their current traditions, they also hope that the new location will have more pedestrian areas and easier access to nature to carry out all kinds of outdoor activities.
Built about 125 years ago, Kiruna was developed to house the employees who worked in the industrial complex in the area. Its inhabitants are spread over a region of around 20,000 m² that contains almost 6,000 lakes, seven rivers and a large amount of forested area.
According to the state-owned Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) mining company, their latest discovery could turn out to be the largest rare earth mine on the European continent. Established in 1890, it mines iron ore at Kiruna and also at Malmberget in northern Sweden.
Following exploration tests, LKAB believed there could be deposits of approximately 585 million tons of ore in the mine. At least one million tons of praseodymium or neodymium oxides are also believed to exist. There are essential materials used in the manufacture of electric vehicles and wind turbines.
In a statement on the company’s website, Jan Moström, President and Group CEO of LKAB, said: ‘This is good news, not only for LKAB, the region and the Swedish people, but also for Europe and the climate’.
‘It is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world and could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition. We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles’, he stressed.
Although this discovery could mean a considerable advance for Sweden in terms of ecological transition, work will not begin immediately. It is thought that a period of between 10 and 15 years will be needed to extract all the available resources.
‘Electrification, the EU’s self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine. We need to strengthen industrial value chains in Europe and create real opportunities for the electrification of our societies, insisted Ebba Busch, Sweden’s Minister for Energy, Trade and Industry.
She added: ‘Politics must give the industry the conditions to switch to green and fossil-free production. Here, the Swedish mining industry has a lot to offer. The need for minerals to carry out the transition is great’.
Sweden’s government is hoping to build a new Kiruna that will be designed to pay special attention to the environment. There will reportedly be more efficient buildings and a series of sustainable mobility solutions.
The long-term objective in the Scandinavian country is to reduce 70 per cent of its carbon dioxide emissions carbon from transport.
Despite the fact that creating the new city poses an enormous challenge for the authorities and its inhabitants, the work represents a further step for a country that wants to create energy communities ‘committed to making a difference’.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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