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LKAB increases mineral resources

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Global Mining Review,

After major exploration efforts, LKAB has reported a continued increase in mineral reserves and mineral resources and, for the first time, present mineral resources of rare earth metals.

The iron ore reserves in Kiruna have increased from approximately 700 million t to more than 800 million t, which means that the life expectancy of the current 1365 main level is extended from 2035 to 2046. In Malmberget, the reserves increase by 30 million t to approximately 300 million t, which also extends the life expectancy above the current main levels. In Svappavaara, however, the reserves in the Leveäniemi mine are decreasing due to mining, although mineral resources in Gruvberget have increased significantly after extensive exploration drilling.

“For the first time, we can present results from the so-called Per Geijer deposit, north of Kiruna. There, we have thus far identified more than 400 million t of mineral resources with high iron content. For us, this means that there are good prerequisites for a long future for our Kiruna operation,” said Pierre Heeroma, Senior Vice President Exploration, Strategy and Business Development, LKAB.

To date, LKAB has identified reserves and mineral resources amounting to a total of approximately 4 billion t in Svappavaara, Malmberget and Kiruna. Since the start in 1890, LKAB has mined a total of more than 2 billion t. In addition to iron ore, LKAB's ores contain apatite, a phosphate mineral that contains phosphorus. Phosphorus is a critical raw material for Europe and an important component in mineral fertilizers. Without the use of mineral fertilizers, world agricultural production would diminish by half.

Other critical raw materials contained in its ores are rare earth metals, which increase in relation to the content of phosphorus. The principal driver of demand for rare earth metals is the green transition, which implies an increased demand for powerful permanent magnets used in electric vehicles and wind-power turbines, which require, for example, praseodymium and neodymium. These, together with dysprosium are expected to constitute the most valuable rare earth elements for LKAB.

“For the first time, we are reporting resources of rare earth metals, in addition to phosphorus, which was also included in our report last year. The volumes are large and the contents look promising. In Malmberget we have identified 1.4 billion t showing an average content of 0.58% phosphorus, in Kiruna, an equivalent amount with an average content of 0.33% and in Svappavaara 800 million t averaging 0.49%. Resources in the Per Geijer deposit amount to 400 million t with an average content of as much as 2.73% phosphorus,” added Heeroma.

Mineral resources of rare earth metals in Kiruna are 1.4 billion t with an average content of 163 ppm (grams per tonne). In Malmberget, there is an equivalent volume, but the average content of rare earth metals is 227 ppm.

“The content of phosphorus and rare earth metals in our ores would not justify primary mining of these. However, thanks to our circular business model, with increased utilisation of large volumes of previously mined material, our ambition is to enable profitable production of relatively large volumes. A very exciting exception is the Per Geijer ore, which has very high phosphorus content as well as rare earth metals and thereby has potential to significantly boost our rate of production of phosphorus and rare earth metals,” explained Leif Boström, Senior Vice President, Business Area Special Products, LKAB.

“Since 2018, we have invested some SEK 1.2 billion in exploration and, in 2021 alone, we have test-drilled the equivalent of 200 km. Mineral resources increased considerably during 2020 and have increased further this year and now amount to a total of nearly 2.8 billion t. The objective to secure mineral resources amounting to at least 1000 million t in Kiruna, 500 million t in Malmberget and 250 million t in Svappavaara has thereby been achieved, which means that we have good prerequisites for production up to 2060,” concluded Heeroma.

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Iron ore mining news European mining news