Turning mining waste into resources

Phosphorus is a primary nutrient in mineral fertilisers. Without mineral fertilisers, global food production could be halved. Rare Earth Elements (REEs), a group of 17 metals, are essential for innovation and the green transformation. Among other areas of application, REEs are used in electrical components and powerful permanent magnets in wind turbines and electric vehicles. 

Phosphorus is considered a finite resource while REEs, despite their name, are actually abundant in earth’s crust. Since they occur in low concentrations, however, extraction often requires large-scale mining with low yields.

Swedish mining and minerals group LKAB is developing innovative new technology to produce these critical minerals without a dedicated new mine, while minimising greenhouse gas emissions thanks to electrified and innovative processes. 

This can be achieved because LKAB operates large-scale iron ore mines. Although productive and climate-efficient, these mines also produce a waste product called tailings sand – mined material that does not contain iron. But the tailings sand has a hidden treasure, phosphorus and REEs, that will enable efficient farming and the green transformation.

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