The race to develop more batteries for electric cars might be reviving dormant mines in Sweden. The Woxna mine, which is around 10 miles north of Stockholm, was shut down in 2001 when they saw a decrease in prices. However, that’s about to change, thanks to Leading Edge Materials Corp – a Canadian company that plans on resuming operations.
They are going to focus on the production of graphite, a major element in the production of crucial battery materials. Lithium and cobalt have dominated headlines due to increases in market prices, but companies might be missing out on the potential benefits of graphite.
What’s Different About Graphite?
Graphite is largely used in the steel industry for the insulation of furnaces and has been over exploited for pencils. It is not a metal like lithium and cobalt because it can be made synthetically, and is one of the major components in Tesla’s battery packs.
Europe Turning Toward Their Mineral Base for Capital:
The drive towards revamping Swedish mines reflects a trend in companies turning to Europe as carmakers rush to develop electric cars. And it’s not only graphite that they are looking into. They will also be examining lithium deposits near Woxna and plan to pursue cobalt in Finland.
Additionally, they are testing a purified form of graphite with the intention of making enough by 2020 to sell to other battery makers. Their eventual goal is to start large-scale output in Sweden.
The European Unions Push Toward Battery Development:
EU politicians are pushing for the local development of batteries in order to counter China’s dominance in that sector. Companies are examining European mines and focusing on cobalt from copper, zinc and gold.
Securing raw materials is a big part in the EU’s efforts. However, they are not abundantly available in regions of planned extraction. Still, they remain steadfast in their commitments because they have lowered their dependency on third country sources. They believe that recycling and the use of substitute materials will allow this industry to regain leverage in the global market.
Big Plans in Europe:
Finland may be Europe’s golden egg; it is known to have one of the largest reserves of cobalt and facilities that refine around 15% of the world’s colbalt production
German chemical maker BASF SE is planning a 492 million cathode factory. In Poland, South Korea’s LG Chem plans on opening the country’s largest lithium-ion battery factory. Other start-up projects including Germany’s TerraE and NorthVolt are underway.
Government Investment in Sweden:
The Swedish government will invest 1.26 million dollars over the next two years to look at the existence of minerals that are needed for future growth. Sweden has a history of mining for base metals. However, the government believes there is potential for the expansion of more uncommon minerals like tungsten and rare earths.
Sweden has also experienced an increase in private investment in the exploration of minerals used in batteries. Stay tuned for developments in the future.