SOKLI, a mineral deposit in Savukoski, Eastern Lapland, contains much greater amounts of rare earth metals than previously thought.
Finnish Minerals Group, the state-owned company that owns Sokli, on Thursday revealed that its scoping study indicates that the deposit could produce a minimum of 10 per cent of all rare earth metals required annually for permanent magnet production in Europe.
Permanent magnets are needed in electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, consumer electronics and the defence industry, for example.
“Europe aims to be a carbon neutral continent by 2050, and [rare earth metals] are essential in implementing the green transition,” commented Jani Kiuru, the senior vice president of raw materials at Finnish Minerals Group.
“The transition from fossil fuels towards the use of renewable energy sources and a genuine circular economy cannot be achieved without new mines.”
The deposit could also satisfy more than 20 per cent of the demand for phosphate, a raw material needed for fertiliser production. While the deposit was known to contain high levels of phosphate, none of its prior owners had studied its potential for rare earth metals until the scoping study launched by Finnish Minerals Group in 2021.
The state-owned company acquired the mineral deposit from Norway’s Yara in 2020.
“Sokli has surprised us with its diversity. We’re dealing with a globally significant deposit of rare earth metals. There are a few hundred in the world that are similar geologically, but they’re much smaller. And Sokli has unusually large amounts of different metals,” Pasi Heino, the manager of the mining project at Finnish Minerals Group, told Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday.
The state-owned company believes the deposit has far greater potential for rare earths than the deposit discovered recently in Kiruna, Swedish Lapland.
In addition to iron, phosphate and rare earth metals, the deposit contains niobium, hafnium, tantalum, manganese, vermiculite, zircon, copper, silver and uranium.
Matti Hietanen, the CEO of Finnish Minerals Group, said the scoping study set out to answer two questions: are economically feasible and environmentally sustainable mining operations achievable at Sokli.
“Both of the objectives are achievable based on the study,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat.
The company estimates that setting up the mine would require an investment in the region of 1–1.5 billion euros. Constructing the mining infrastructure could begin early next decade, provided that the conclusions of the scoping study are corroborated by further investigations and permitting processes are initiated.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT