The Fen Carbonatite Complex in Telemark, Norway, has its origin in a 580 million year old volcano, and the magma remains from its eruptions are enriched in rare earth elements. Despite their name, these elements are quite common in the Earth´s crust, but they rarely occur in concentrations that make it possible to extract them. Fen is probably Europe's largest deposit with concentrated rare earths. These elements are essential of many high-tech applications, e.g. in renewable energy, medicine and transport. Particularly important are the elements neodymium and praseodymium, which are required to make super magnets for electric cars and wind turbines. To implement the green transition, Norway and Europe have an enormous need for these elements, but we are currently completely dependent on imports from other parts of the world. We now have a unique opportunity to develop a Norwegian value chain from mine to magnet, based on the Fen deposit. The project will enable sustainable and environmentally friendly production of these raw materials, in line with Norwegian regulations and with respect for the local community. To achieve this, new innovative chemical processing technology must be developed, and the footprint minimized by developing additional by-products, as well as safe handling of the naturally radioactive elements present in the ore. The project will develop methods to purify and concentrate thorium to be used in the production of for radiopharmaceutical products. The companies participating in the project are Rare Earths Norway AS, which holds an exploration permit of most of the Fen deposit, REEtec AS, which has developed new technology for the separation of the various rare earth elements, and Thor Medical AS, specialized in thorium use for cancer medicine. The participating research institutions are the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Nordland Research Institute (Nordlandsforskning).
The Fen Carbonatite Complex, located in the Telemark area (Norway), is a unique geological formation and one of the largest known deposits of Rare Earth Elements (REE) in Europe, which will provide Europe with domestic supply of some of the most critical materials for the Green Transition. REE are of crucial importance, since they are used for the manufacturing of high-intensity magnets and other key components for electronics, renewable energy devices, aerospace, automotive and other energy-related applications. Additionally, the ore contains key components for producing radiopharmaceutical products against cancer, and other valuable elements suitable for innovative applications like catalysts and CO2 sorbents.
The goal is to develop a world-class unseen mine, with minimum environmental footprint, which promotes positive social impact and engagement from early stage. The REEsilience project will determine the most sustainable technology to exploit this deposit in a holistic manner, for maximum value creation, by:
•Design and optimization of the most suitable process along the value chain for REE-bearing fluoro-carbonates and phosphates from the Fen complex, harmonizing innovative routes to maximize the number and quality of potential products.
•Implementation of the first environmental and social impact assessment, exploring new added-value end products towards Zero-Waste goals.
•Definition of a robust radioactivity management plan to ensure safe production and environmental protection with no radioactive tailings discharge.
REEsilience will define a strategic, large new business in Norwegian mineral exploitation, anchored to key industry in downstream processes (i.e. magnets and radiopharmacy). As a result, this initiative will strengthen Norway´s position at the forefront of sustainable mining and metallurgical industry for Critical Raw Materials supply, crucial for the EU´s green growth.