Swedish company LKAB targets emission-free iron ore mining around 2030

Diesel-powered mining vehicles like this one belongs to the past. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Europe’s largest iron ore producer aims at replacing all diesel-powered mining machines with electric ones at the underground mines in Kiruna and Malmberget, northern Sweden.

Swedish Energy Agency has granted 207 million kronor (€19 million) to a testbed project in Konsuln mine, hundreds of meters underground in Kiruna.

“The project will run till at least 2024 for developing and testing to find technical solutions for 100% electric types of machinery for underground mining,” says media spokesperson Fredrik Björkenwall with LKAB to the Barents Observer.

In the longer run, Björkenwall explains, is the goal to implement full-scale fossil-free operations at all of LKAB’s underground mines in Kiruna and Malmberget.

The Swedish state-owned mining company produced more than 27 million tons of iron ore in 2019, making it the largest supplier in Europe and also the largest ore producer inside the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia.

From Kiruna, the iron-ore is sent by rail to the port of Narvik on Norway’s northern coast. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The goal is to scale up the uses of electrical vehicles in the underground mines, but also to develop autonomous mining technologies. The testbed mining takes place at about 500 meters below the surface.

“Exactly when we will reach the goal of carbon-free underground mining is not yet completely determined, but sometime around 2030,” explains Fredrik Börkenwall.

He tells that LKAB has some electric trucks and all the rail-transport from the main underground level is fully electric.

“Most of our other machinery drive on diesel when being moved between the different workspaces and shift over to electric when at the locations of work.”

Diesel-powered mining vehicle used down-deep in Kiruna. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The project Sustainable Underground Mining is a cooperation between the five Swedish industry groups LKAB, Volvo Group, ABB, Epiroc and Combitech and has a total estimated cost of 1,1 billion kronor (€100 million).

LKAB is also a partner in the first-ever test-factory for fossil steel production currently under construction in Luleå in northern Sweden.

As previously reported by the Barents Observer, the test-productions will be up and running later this year. In the longer run, the aim is full industrial production by 2035.

If successful with both zero-emission iron ore mining and steel productions without any carbon emissions, the projects could reduce Sweden’s CO2 emissions by 10 percent.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic Canada: Nunavut mining companies confirm no COVID-19 cases, as concerns rise, CBC News

Finland: Mining companies to pay higher deposits for environmental damage in FinlandYle News

Norway: Arctic oil plans in Norway and Russia disrupted amid COVID-19 crisis, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian company VostokCoal abandons major coal mining project in Arctic tundra, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Kiruna, an Arctic Swedish town built and relocated for mining, Blog – Mia Bennett

United States: Wells Fargo becomes third major US bank to nix Arctic oil investment, Alaska Public Media

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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