Light Rare Earth Elements (LREE)
What: Rare earth metals are a group of elements, so-called transition metals, where lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb) and lutetium (Lm) are included.
In some contexts, the elements scandium (Sc) and yttrium (Y) are also considered rare earth metals. Many of these elements were discovered during the 19th century through studies of materials from Swedish mines, primarily from the Ytterby mine on Resarö in the Stockholm archipelago (Gd, Tb, Ho, Er, Tm and Yb) but also from the Bastnäs field in Västmanland (Ce and La).
The group of rare earth metals is often abbreviated REE (rare-earth elements). They can be divided into the groups LREE and HREE (light and heavy rare-earth elements), respectively, where LREE includes the atomically lighter half of the series lanthanum-lutetium and HREE the heavier. These two groups differ in part in terms of occurrence, production, demand and price picture, which is why they each occupy a place on the European Commission’s list of critical materials.
The rare earth metals can be used to make strong magnets for use in electric motors, for use in industry or vehicles. Such magnets are also used in electric generators, which are needed for electricity production in various types of power plants.
Mined: Globally, China is by far the largest producer with 86 percent of world production, followed by Australia (6 percent) and the United States (2 percent). Within the EU, demand is met by imports from China to 99 percent (LREE) and 98 percent (HREE), respectively.
Potential in Sweden: No mining takes place today. Mining has previously taken place in Västmanland County and discussions have taken place regarding the opening of a completely new mine at Norra Kärr in the northernmost county of Jönköping. Known deposits are also found in other places, for example in northeastern Småland and around Bergslagen. In Kiruna, REE is bound in apatite iron ore. LKAB’s project ReeMAP aims, among other things, to utilize REE through the recycling and processing of mining waste.