Collaboration on recycling mining waste to create circular products
Swedish mining companies LKAB and Boliden are to investigate the possibility of extracting pyrite concentrate from mining waste at the Boliden Aitik mine.
LKAB will subsequently process it into fossil-free sulphuric acid, which will then be used in processes for extracting rare earth elements and phosphorus from LKAB’s mining waste.
‘Together with Boliden we see an exciting opportunity to develop our plans to include another circular flow that can also remove dependence on fossil products on our way to becoming carbon-free. The sulphuric acid production will also generate excess heat that can be used in our industrial park, as well as fairly large volumes of iron oxide as a by-product. Collaborating in this way is smart, climate-efficient and positive for LKAB’s project to extract critical minerals,’ says Jan Moström, President and CEO, LKAB.
Extracting critical minerals such as phosphorus and rare earth elements from existing waste streams requires significant quantities of sulphuric acid. The plan is for Boliden to establish a plant in Aitik for the production of pyrite concentrate, thereby reducing the need for deposits in Aitik. In parallel, LKAB will establish plants for producing sulphuric acid from the concentrate.
Subject to an efficient environmental permit process, it is estimated that both LKAB’s production of apatite concentrate in Kiruna and Malmberget as well as the industrial park for further processing into critical minerals – including the production of sulphuric acid based on pyrite from the Aitik mine – could be operational in 2027.
In the first instance LKAB will produce phosphorus and rare earth elements from ongoing mining, but may expand production by extracting mining waste that has been deposited previously.