After having dramatically ramped up exploration activities in all three mining locations since 2018, LKAB can now present the result: an increase in mineral resources during 2020 by 45 percent, from 1.2 to 1.7 billion tonnes.
"This should enable us to maintain production until at least 2060. Furthermore, the deposits are open at depth, meaning that their extent at depth is not known," says Pierre Heeroma, Senior Vice President Exploration.
Over the past two years LKAB has invested some 700 million kronor in the search for new deposits and in ascertaining the extent of existing ones. Focus has been placed on areas close to the mines, since the exploration potential is considered great and the proximity to existing infrastructure facilitates future mining.
"We have set high targets, and this has paid off. That we can realize such a large increase in mineral resources is a prerequisite both for continuing to operate as a mining company and for our major transition to carbon-dioxide-free products," explains Pierre Heeroma.The iron content of the deposits is around 60 percent, double that of deposits in most other iron-producing countries throughout the world. The extent of the deposits is still open at depth, which means that LKAB will continue exploration in the vicinity of the mines over the coming years. In Kiruna work will continue both at depth and towards the areas referred to as the Per Geijer ore, north of the city. In Svappavaara both Gruvberget and Leveäniemi will be tested at depth, and in Malmberget it will be a matter of following the existing deposits at depth.
"The new deposits should imply, provided that we can develop the mineral resources into mineral reserves, that we will be able to continue mining for many decades to come and be able to realize our major plan to abandon fossil-fuel-based production transitioning into carbon-dioxide-free iron sponge. Exploration is the foundation of our industry. Mining companies that do not invest in exploration must eventually plan to wind down their operations. It is important to do exploration well, but luck is also part of the equation. The deposits are where they are " says Pierre Heeroma.
LKAB is embarking on a transition that may entail the largest ever investment in Swedish industry. The aim is to deliver sponge iron that is produced with hydrogen and thereby reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tonnes per year. The company is setting a new world standard for carbon-dioxide-free, digitalized and autonomous underground mining. With fossil-free technology strategically important rare earth metals and phosphorus for mineral fertilizers will be extracted from today's mine waste. All of this will require very considerable investments amounting to 10–20 billion kronor per year over a period of 15–20 years. This will create thousands of new jobs in the mining districts and Norrbotten over more than 20 years. In the classification of a mining company's deposits, mineral resources are assigned an initial value with a lower level of confidence. Through further drilling and technical and financial studies, the mineral resources can then be upgraded to mineral reserves, i.e., when we know that the mineralization is possible to mine with profit. LKAB's total mineral reserves amount to 1,093 million tonnes (Mt) (737 Mt in Kiruna, 265 Mt in Malmberget and 91 Mt in Svappavaara).
Through exploration during 2020, the mineral resources have increased from a total of 1,208 Mt to 1,754 Mt. The distribution across the mining locations is: Kiruna 713 Mt, an increase of 230Mt, Malmberget 707 Mt, an increase of 219 Mt, and Svappavaara 334 Mt, an increase of 88 Mt.
"LKAB is an international high-tech mining and minerals group that mines and upgrades the unique iron ore of northern Sweden for the global steel market. Sustainability is core to our business and our ambition is to be one of the industry’s most innovative, resource-efficientand responsible companies. The group had sales of about SEK 33.9 billion in 2020 and employs about 4,500 people in 12 countries. Other group business include industrial minerals, drilling systems, rail transport, rockwork services and property management."
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