New methods for recovering critical raw materials

13 January 2020

The prestudy for LKAB’s project will now continue with an assessment and comparison of several possible production technologies and partners.

This study aims to industrialize a process whereby critical raw materials such as phosphorus and rare earth metals are recovered from mine waste.

Since the start of the project in 2018 LKAB has collaborated with Easymining, a subsidiary of Ragn-Sells. They did so to assess the possibility of industrializing their patented technology for extracting phosphorus. The agreement regulating this collaboration has been terminated by LKAB.

Evaluation of process routes

“We will now take this development further and involve several possible partners, nationally and internationally, to evaluate all of the process routes which we have identified as interesting and viable. We have focussed on developing a process for LKAB’s material recovery that is energy-efficient, ready to be implemented in industrial scale and produces pure, high-quality products,” says Leif Boström, Senior Vice President Special Products Division, LKAB.

Assessment of production technologies

The production technologies to be assessed are either already employed in industrial processes or require only a minor degree of innovation. This will probably mean that they can be developed quickly. After the conclusion of the prestudy, the project will move into a pre-project planning phase that will provide a basis for an investment decision.

Phosphorous, rare earth elements and gypsum

Production and upgrading will take place in two stages. Flotation and production of apatite concentrate will take place in facilities that are directly adjacent to existing iron ore production in Malmberget and Kiruna. The concentrate will then be shipped by rail to a plant at an as-yet-to-be-decided location near the coast, where further processing will take place. Here, the apatite will be dissolved, and phosphorus, rare earth elements and gypsum will be separated to create pure, high-quality products.