A new ace in Norrland's poker hand.

In mid-January came the news that could give Norrland real power – LKAB has found Europe's largest deposit of rare earth metals. Now our local politicians must make the most of this.

Opinion 17 januari 2023 16:36

On Thursday the twelfth of January, the entire Swedish government, the Swedish king and the European Commission gathered for a meeting in Kiruna, in the far north. The meeting was ostensibly to mark the start of Sweden's presidency of the EU. Kiruna was, in many ways, a symbolically very appropriate place for this big political meeting

Especially so when LKAB presented a piece of news that could literally affect the whole world.

LKAB has found that in the Kiruna area there are over one million tons of rare earth metals and there is also reason to believe that there are even more to be found in the future.

If the cards are played right, these raw materials can strengthen Sweden's voice on the international stage, similar to how Norwegian oil has bolstered Norway's role globally.

That may seem a little exaggerated, but let's put the rare metals find in context.

Much modern technology need these metals to function, such as computers, mobile phones, electric cars and wind turbines. In other words, the raw materials are a prerequisite for the society we live in today and for the green transition to the society we want in the future.

The analogy with oil again arises as fossil fuel has played a main role in the energy sector for a very long time and a similar role may in the future be fulfilled by these metals. If the deposits up in Norrbotten can be mined, and possibly turn out to be even larger than first thought, Sweden will reap huge economic rewards.

The other important dimension of this find is that Europe is currently almost entirely dependent on importing these raw materials from the dictatorship of China.

The war in Ukraine has clearly shown the danger of being dependent on imports from a capricious dictatorship. Europe's dependence on Russian oil, and especially gas, has made the whole continent uncomfortable. We certainly don't want to be in a position in which China uses our rare earth metals reliance against us.

So back to us here in Norrland. Northvolt, Hybrit and H2 Green Steel are all examples of an increasingly brighter dawn for Norrland's green industries, and the ace that is LKAB's findings gives us an even stronger poker hand to play.

In order for us northerners to be able to harness and leverage all these investments, there needs to be ambitious improvements to the infrastructure, good conditions created for housing construction, and, not least, government assistance in attracting competence to our part of the country.

A few years ago, our local politicians could only have dreamed of such excellent conditions for development and growth. But the change is happening fast and the transition will demand a lot from all of us. In order to derive maximum benefit from this promising set of circumstances, politicians and society at large must shift into top gear.

Note about the author

Leo Wikberg is Norran's political editor.

Ämnen du kan följa