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Sweden claims largest discovery of ‘crucial’ rare-earth elements in Europe

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Sweden claims largest discovery of 'crucial' rare-earth elements in Europe
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While it could take more than a decade to develop, state-owned Swedish mining company LKAB said Thursday it uncovered Europe s largest known deposit of rare-earth elements, elements that are central components for the energy transition.

Rare-earth elements, along with lithium and cobalt, are essential for the batteries that power electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies, though most of that is found outside of the Western, developed economies.

LKAB said it found a deposit in the Kiruna area of Sweden, above the Arctic Circle, that contains more than 1 million tons of rare-earth elements.

“This is the largest known deposit of rare-earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition,” Jan Mostrom, president and CEO of LKAB, said.

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Without sufficient supplies and without mines to extract these minerals, the energy transition would grind to a halt. The European Commission, for example, estimates the bloc will need to see a five-fold increase in rare-earth element supply to meet the expected increase in electric vehicles and wind turbines.

China, however, “completely dominates the market,” LKAB said, and the discovery in Europe will go a long way toward reducing the dependency on any single supplier, a problem the European Union is already working to address by looking for oil and gas suppliers other than Russia.

Dependency was an issue raised Thursday by Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency. The IEA estimates that the Democratic Republic of Congo currently produces 70% of the world s cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, while Australia, Chile and China account for 90% of the total global production of lithium.

There are no rare-earth mines in operation in Europe. LKAB said it s already started some preliminary work to tap the Kiruna deposit, dubbed Per Geijer, but permitting and developmental processes are slow.

“If we look at how other permit processes have worked within our industry, it will be at least 10-15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market,” Mostrom said. 

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While it could take more than a decade to develop, state-owned Swedish mining company LKAB said Thursday it uncovered Europe s largest known deposit of rare-earth elements, elements that are central components for the energy transition.

Rare-earth elements, along with lithium and cobalt, are essential for the batteries that power electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies, though most of that is found outside of the Western, developed economies.

LKAB said it found a deposit in the Kiruna area of Sweden, above the Arctic Circle, that contains more than 1 million tons of rare-earth elements.

“This is the largest known deposit of rare-earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition,” Jan Mostrom, president and CEO of LKAB, said.

Without sufficient supplies and without mines to extract these minerals, the energy transition would grind to a halt. The European Commission, for example, estimates the bloc will need to see a five-fold increase in rare-earth element supply to meet the expected increase in electric vehicles and wind turbines.

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China, however, “completely dominates the market,” LKAB said, and the discovery in Europe will go a long way toward reducing the dependency on any single supplier, a problem the European Union is already working to address by looking for oil and gas suppliers other than Russia.

Dependency was an issue raised Thursday by Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency. The IEA estimates that the Democratic Republic of Congo currently produces 70% of the world s cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, while Australia, Chile and China account for 90% of the total global production of lithium.

There are no rare-earth mines in operation in Europe. LKAB said it s already started some preliminary work to tap the Kiruna deposit, dubbed Per Geijer, but permitting and developmental processes are slow.

“If we look at how other permit processes have worked within our industry, it will be at least 10-15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market,” Mostrom said. 

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Panasonic cuts full-year outlook as costly raw materials weigh

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Panasonic cuts full-year outlook as costly raw materials weigh

Japan’s Panasonic Holdings Corp (6752.T) cut its annual operating profit forecast by 12.5% on Thursday after lower-than-expected third-quarter earnings, hit by headwinds from a slowing global economy and persistently high raw materials prices.

The company faces challenges amid a tricky outlook for global growth, as it looks to further build out its energy business, which includes making auto batteries for electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).

The conglomerate slashed its operating profit forecast to 280 billion yen ($2.18 billion) for the financial year to Mar. 31, from 320 billion yen, in part due to a less rosy outlook for its industry segment this quarter.

It expects to invest up to about 600 billion yen in the three years through March 2025 in a new battery plant it started building in Kansas last year, Group Chief Financial Officer Hirokazu Umeda told an online earnings presentation.

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Panasonic said in presentation materials it will aim to grow profits in automotive batteries by expanding sales of its 2170 model lithium-ion battery cells and commercialising the more advanced 4680 format battery.

The company’s energy unit last month signed an agreement with Lucid Group Inc (LCID.O) to supply lithium-ion batteries for the EV maker’s full lineup, including its “Air” luxury model.

The company also said it aimed to begin supplying the 4680 format battery to the North American market in the financial year through March 2024 to commercialise this model of battery cells.

Panasonic’s third-quarter result, with its operating profit rising 16% to 84.4 billion yen in the three months ended Dec. 31, fell short of a mean estimate of 95.31 billion yen profit from nine analysts.

Jefferies analysts said in a note before the earnings release that the company’s overly diverse business portfolio lacked focus and was centred on low-margin, cyclical businesses.

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Most investors were focused on more clarity and details about U.S. Inflation Reduction Act benefits for Panasonic’s EV battery cell production, such as the size and sustainability of subsidies, the analysts added.

The energy business’ operating profit fell nearly half to 28.9 billion yen for the nine months through the end of December, hit mainly by high prices for raw materials and transport, despite a 25% rise in sales over the period.

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Japanese chip venture Rapidus needs $54bn to begin production, says chairman

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Japanese chip venture Rapidus needs $54bn to begin production, says chairman

Japan’s state-backed chip venture Rapidus will need about 7 trillion yen ($54 billion) of mostly taxpayer money to begin mass producing advanced logic chips in around 2027, its chairman, Tetsuro Higashi, told Reuters on Thursday.

That plan may be Japan’s last best chance to revive its ageing semiconductor industry as Japan and the United States set aside old industrial rivalries to take on China amid growing geopolitical tension.

“In the past, the United States hindered Japan’s chip industry growth. Now we have America’s support,” Higashi said in an interview.

Japan and the United States worry that friction with China will result in semiconductor shortages that could threaten economic growth.

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That concern has escalated as China has increased pressure on global chip hub Taiwan, with nearby military exercises after Chinese anger over visits by U.S. politicians to the self-ruled island.

TWO NANOMETRES

Following an agreement by Japan and the United States to cooperate in semiconductor technology, Rapidus in December announced a tie-up with IBM Corp (IBM.N) to develop and produce two-nanometre chips.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a metre and the smaller the number, the more cutting-edge the chip is. Japan’s most advanced semiconductor factory is a 40-nanometre plant owned by Renesas Electronics (6723.T).

Rapidus will announce the location of its first factory in March, Higashi said.

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The former boss of chip machinery maker Tokyo Electron (8035.T) declined to say where, but said it would not be near the site on Kyushu island that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) recently picked for its first Japan factory.

To pay for the factory and buy production equipment, Rapidus will need sustained investment from Japan’s government, which in December announced 70 billion yen ($544 million) of initial funding.

Eight corporations that have small stakes in Rapidus, including Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Sony Group Corp (6758.T), are unlikely to stump up any money soon, Higashi said.

“They are future customers. For them, the decision to invest will be taken when they are able to assess our technology and production plans.”

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Xiaomi demands payout from supplier after car designs leaked

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Xiaomi demands payout from supplier after car designs leaked

China’s Xiaomi <1810.HK) said on Thursday it had imposed a 1 million Yuan ($149,000) penalty on a supplier after it leaked early design drafts of an upcoming car model.

On its official Weibo page, a spokesperson wrote Xiaomi had “dealt seriously” with a Beijing-based moulding technology company which on Jan. 22 publicly revealed images of an upcoming car’s front and rear bumpers, violating a confidentiality agreement.
Xiaomi did not disclose the name of the company and Reuters could not identify it.

As punishment, the smartphone-turned-car maker said it would impose “economic compensation” of 1 million Yuan ($148,763) on the supplier.

The spokesperson added it had instructed the supplier to strengthen its information security management and develop plans to upgrade its confidentiality measures.

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Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun also circulated the note on his personal Weibo page.

Over the Chinese New Year, images purportedly showing mock-ups of the front and rear of Xiaomi’s upcoming electric vehicle (EV) spread on social media, as well as a full view of what appeared to be a white compact sedan, with a license plate that read “MS11”.

The leaks would mark the first confirmed images of Xiaomi’s long-awaited automobile.

However, News portal Sina Tech reported on Thursday that Wang Hua, general manager of Xiaomi’s public relations department, said the leaked designs were part of a bidding process and were not final renderings.

In March 2021 Xiaomi, a hardware company best known for its smartphones said it would enter the automotive sector, aiming to invest $10 billion in the project over ten years.

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Since then, the company has committed to opening a plant in Beijing that could produce 300,000 vehicles per year.

The company has said it hopes to reach mass production of its cars in the first half of 2024.

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