A remarkable find of a massive mineral deposit in Norway has the potential to fulfill the global demand for batteries and solar panels for the next century, claims Norge Mining, the company in control of the deposit. Situated in south-western Norway, the deposit consists of up to 70 billion tonnes of phosphate rock, along with deposits of other strategically important minerals like titanium and vanadium.
Phosphate rock is rich in phosphorus, a vital element for the development of green technologies, but its supply is currently facing significant challenges. Phosphorus was originally discovered in 1669 during the search for the philosopher’s stone by German scientist Hennig Brandt. While it didn’t possess the power to turn ordinary metals into gold, phosphorus has become an essential component in lithium-iron phosphate batteries used in electric cars, as well as in solar panels and computer chips.
Until now, Russia held the world’s largest reserves of ultra-pure phosphate rock, prompting the European Union (EU) to raise concerns about the high supply risk associated with these “critical raw materials.” The EU heavily relies on imports of phosphate rock from other parts of the world, with China, Iraq, and Syria also home to significant deposits.
A report from The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies revealed the EU’s near-total dependence on phosphate rock imports prior to the discovery of the extensive Norwegian deposit, highlighting the need for concern regarding potential shortages.
Nature, a scientific journal, warned in a previous article about the imminent risk of phosphorus supply disruptions, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent economic sanctions as potential causes of market volatility.
The global economy consumes approximately 50 million tonnes of phosphorus annually, and earlier this year, scientists issued a warning about a possible “phosphogeddon” if current supply trends continue.
In a blog post, Norge Mining stated, “The buyers’ market is becoming increasingly crowded by limited trade – due to political instability in several source countries, as well as international sanctions imposed on others. This is forcing importers to fear an impending crisis.”
Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s minister of trade and industry, announced that the government is considering expediting the development of a large-scale mine in Helleland once the analysis of 47 miles of drill cores is completed. If approved, the first major mine could commence operations by 2028.
Vestre emphasized Norway’s commitment to developing “the world’s most sustainable mineral industry” in light of this mineral discovery.
The European Raw Materials Alliance reportedly supports the mining plans, and discussions with local stakeholders are ongoing.
A spokesperson for the European Commission expressed enthusiasm about the discovery, stating that it is “great news” for achieving the Commission’s raw material objectives. Norge Mining informed Euractiv that the projected ore body, which could reach a depth of 4,500 meters, has the potential to satisfy global demand for the next century.
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Story by Anthony Cuthbertson