Rare earths, the largest deposit in Europe discovered in Norway: what can change

A discovery that could relaunch Europe's energy transition race with China. Mining group Rare Earths Norway (Ren) announced it had found in Norway the largest rare earth deposit on the continentwhose resources would far exceed the Kiruna mine in Sweden, in which it is estimated that between 1 and 2 million tonnes of those 17 chemical elements are necessary for the production of fundamental technologies: from renewables, in particular for rechargeable car batteries , to everyday devices, up to the most advanced applications in sectors such as defense and aerospace.

The rare earth deposit in Norway

Ren announced that the Fensfeltet deposit, a Norwegian locality in the county of Telemark in the south-east of the country, about a hundred kilometers from Oslo, would contain 8.8 million tons of total rare earth oxides (Treo), essential for the development of sustainable energy.

The quantity was estimated following three years of drilling and analysis at the site called 'Fen Carbonatite Complex' by the Norwegian mining group, in collaboration with the Canadian consultancy company Wsp.

“Rare Earths Norway's goal is to contribute to a total and compact value chain, from mine to magnet, with significantly reduced climate and environmental impact,” said Ren CEO Alf Reistad.

The impact on Europe

According to the calculations, the mineral resources of the deposit extend up to 468 meters under the sea, but further drilling would seem to suggest the presence of mineralization even at depths of up to a thousand meters below the water level.

The Fensfeltet rare earth mines, which derive from an ancient volcanic conduit formed 580 million years ago by a flow of carbonate-rich magma, would also contain 1.5 million tonnes of metals such as neodymium and praseodymiumof particular interest for their use in the production of magnets used in electric vehicles and wind turbines.

“The European Union considers these metals to be the most critical raw materials when considering supply risk,” the company said, highlighting that for this reason “the estimate highlights the potential of the deposit as a truly transformative resource capable of supporting a of the safe value of rare earths for Europe”.

The first extraction phase of the deposit could begin in 2030 with an initial investment of 10 billion Norwegian kroner (equal to approximately 870 million euros). The exploitation of the resources of the 'Fen Carbonatite Complex' would thus allow Rare Earths Norway to cover 10% of the demand for rare earths in line with the European objectives indicated by the European regulation on critical raw materials (Critical Raw Materials Act).

The Norwegian mining group has announced that it is already working with various partners to operate on the deposit with technologies that allow it to minimize the environmental impact of mining activities.

Over the next few months, further drilling will be conducted and the economic feasibility of the project will be assessed, with results to be communicated by 2024. But, if given the green light, the discovery could reduce Europe's dependence on China, which has approximately a third of the world's rare earth reserves and from which it imports 98% of these raw materials.