Today, products that utilise rare materials are for the most part manufactured in China. However, the EU has recently decided to boost its raw materials supply security. Researchers and the minerals industry are now looking to Norway.
Many rare materials are crucial to the green transition, and the minerals that are planned to be extracted from the Fen Field deposit in the Norwegian municipality Telemark will have an important role to play.
An EU-funded project has recently been launched to establish a European value chain for the processing of rare earth metals from the Fen Field. The aim is to use these metals in the manufacture of super strong magnets that are crucial to European industry. Researchers at SINTEF in Norway will be coordinating the work.
The rare earth elements (REE) represent a total of 17 different elements with a variety of properties. They are defined by the EU as ‘Critical Raw Materials’ for use in the development of a number of technologies, in particular linked to the green transition and, more specifically, in connection with the manufacture of energy-efficient electric motors.
According to Senior Research Scientist Arne Petter Ratvik at SINTEF, the magnet manufacturing sector is the most important end user of rare earth elements. For example, the elements neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium are essential to the manufacture of the compact and energy-efficient motors used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, mobile telephones and a variety of medical technologies, as well as in many other applications.
SINTEF is acting as coordinator for the EU project, which may hopefully help to establish a robust European value chain, starting with European-sourced minerals and leading to the manufacture of finished magnets.
According to the exploration company REE Minerals AS, mineral deposits here in Norway offer the country a unique opportunity to develop an industry that is both commercially interesting and strategically essential to Europe as a whole.