Ragn-Sells and LKAB extract minerals from mining waste
The environmental company Ragn-Sells launches a new collaboration with the state-owned mining company LKAB to begin extracting valuable minerals from mining waste. Through Ragn-Sell's patented technology, both phosphorus and rare earth metals can be extracted. The project will begin in the autumn of 2018.
– Our way of living today is based on an unsustainable use of natural resources. Through this long-term cooperation, Ragn-Sells, together with LKAB, can help to extract valuable minerals back into circulation, says Ragn-Sells CEO Lars Lindén.
Without phosphorus as a nutrient in agriculture, half of the world's food production would disappear. LKAB's recovery of phosphorus from mining waste can cover Sweden's annual consumption five times.
Ragn-Sells’ process for extracting minerals from the waste from LKAB's iron ore production is called KMAP. It is based on the CleanMAP® technology, a world patent developed by Ragn-Sells’ innovation company EasyMining. The process means that ammonium phosphate, the decisive constituent in fertilizers, and rare earth metals are extracted in a highly energy efficient manner. At the same time, the toxic substances of fluorine and arsenic can be removed from the cycle.
– We are pleased to contribute to Sweden turning into a circular economy and becoming self-sufficient in phosphorus and other important raw materials. On July 17, we are invited by the UN to talk about how our phosphor recovery technology contributes to achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, says Lars Lindén.
The EU is today completely dependent on imported phosphorus. The only producer in Europe covers just a tenth of the need. Rare earth metals, which are required to manufacture computers and telephones, are currently imported to the EU by 100 percent, primarily from China. Both phosphorus and rare earth metals are listed by the EU as critical raw materials (CRM).
In the first phase of the project, two pilots are being planned; one in Malmfälten and one presumably in Uppsala. The first creates a concentrate of the apatite ore contained in the mining waste, while the other improves the concentrate.
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Facts: The CleanMAP® technology
The CleanMAP® technology enables highly efficient and cost-efficient production of highly purified ammonium phosphate. The cadmium content of the ammonium phosphate product is below 1 mg of cadmium per kilo of phosphorus. This is considerably cleaner than the purest phosphor fertilizers available on the market today. CleanMAP® technology can be integrated into processes for phosphorous recovery from virgin or recycled raw materials, such as sewage sludge or from mining waste from LKAB's production.
The KMAP process is specifically developed for apatite from LKAB's mining waste. It handles the two types of apatite that LKAB produces in Kiruna and Malmberget, and co-extracts phosphorus and rare earth metals. In the process, the arsenic and fluorine contained in the apatite are separated so that it can be removed rather than ending up in the fields via phosphorous fertilizers.
Without phosphorous fertilizers, agriculture could only produce half as much food. At the same time, phosphorus is a barrier: Today there is only one phosphate deposit in Europe. It is located in Finland and produces only 10 percent of Europe's phosphorus needs. Phosphorus is listed on the EU's Critical Raw Materials (CRM) list.
The world's largest deposit is found in northwestern Africa. The phosphate ore contains high levels of heavy metal cadmium and the radioactive substance uranium. LKAB's phosphorus product will be free of heavy metals and radioactive substances, while reducing dependence on imports from countries in geopolitically challenging areas.
Facts: Rare earth metals
Rare earth metals is the collective name of a group of metallic elements. According to international conventions, a total of 17 elements are counted here. Many of them were discovered during the 17th and 19th centuries.
Today, 95 percent of the world's total production comes from mines in China. The metals are crucial for the production of computer processors, mobile phones and batteries.