The first step in a long value chain
Exploration is about gathering information by examining the bedrock. In practice, these are geophysical measurements such as electromagnetic measurements and gravimetric measurements. All to understand the geological history of the area and thus mineralogical composition. In order to meet the need for metals to cope with the climate, exploration must increase. Exploration is the first and most important step for all mining operations and the start of a long value chain. Therefore, active exploration is absolutely necessary for a continued mining and mineral industry.
At the turn of the year 2020/21, there were 550 valid exploration permits required for exploration. This can be compared with 2013 when the number of valid permits was 823. The total exploration investments for companies looking for ore in Sweden was SEK 955 million in 2019. An increase of 22% from 2018. However, it is noteworthy that this mostly concerns exploration investments close to or in existing mines, i.e. not exploration on new locations.
The large companies, LKAB and Boliden, hold most exploration permits. Few of the exploration permits lead to a new mining establishment, but all create a greater knowledge of the country’s minerals and bedrock.
The environmental impact of exploration is usually barely noticeable, and is not very different than forestry or, for example, well drilling. On the other hand, questions may arise among the local population if the exploration is carried out within sight of buildings or communities, especially if it is in parts of the country where one is not used to this type of activity. The fact that exploration is being carried out does not mean, however, that there will be a mine at that particular location in the future. There are 12 mines throughout Sweden and the area of the country’s mines does not even amount to one per mille of the land area. Exploration, and especially not mines, is something that does not affect more than a very small proportion of the population.
Sources: Svemin, SGU, The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden, SCB