These are the predictions of Pär Weihed, Vice Chancellor and Professor of Ore Geology at Luleå University of Technology, regarding the development of potential uranium mining in Sweden.
– There are different solutions depending on the type of deposit. The problem is that no one in Sweden has been involved in either prospecting or enrichment technology for the last 30-40 years, says Weihed.
The largest uranium deposits are associated with oil shale, which is most common around the mountain range in Skåne, Västergötland and Östergötland.
– However, the grades there are low, and there are problems with profitability unless you can combine it with the mining of another metal at the same time, such as vanadium, says Weihed.
Mining is fraught with challenges, especially after the environmental disaster in 2012 when a dam burst at the Finnish nickel mine in Talvivaara, near the Russian border. The water that gushed out contained nickel and cadmium, as well as radioactive uranium.
Other uranium deposits are found in fractured rock mineralization. They contain higher grades of uranium but much smaller tonnage.
– None of this is fully explored. There is definitely potential, but extensive prospecting is needed," says Weihed.
He predicts that Swedish companies are unlikely to carry out this prospecting.
– I doubt that it would be of interest to companies like LKAB. They do not have the expertise in-house. My assessment is that it will be exclusively foreign venture capital and foreign companies.
If the ban on uranium mining in Sweden is lifted, Weihed does not see any technical or environmental obstacles.
–The enrichment technology is not particularly complicated, and I don't see any problems with the current environmental legislation in Sweden. But it's not going to happen tomorrow. I don't think there will be a uranium mine within the next 10-15 years, he says.
He does not want to speculate on where a mine might be considered.
– Whether a mine could be considered in Pleutajokk, for example, is impossible to assess today.
However, he is certain that there will be strong protests at the sites that are considered.
– If people thought the process around a mine in Kallak was difficult, it is just a whisper of what a mine in Pleutajokk would trigger. The social challenge will be the greatest if you want to engage in uranium mining, says Weihed.