A European city is planning to move each of its buildings ‘one by one’ to make room for a massive mine set to extract billions of pounds worth of rare earth metals.
The sought-after minerals are used in everything from mobile phones to missiles and car batteries and at present 98 per cent of the resource comes into the EU from China.
But the historic iron mining town of Kiruna, in Sweden, could be about to yield a new major source of the valuable commodities.
The settlement is 90 miles north of the Arctic Circle and home to around 17,000 residents. It grew after the discovery of iron ore in the area over a 100 years ago as a place for workers from the nearby Kiruna Mine to live.
Now what lies beneath the city is set to dictate its fortunes once more with authorities planning on moving the entire conurbation around two miles from its current location.
According to La Nacion the mining company LKAB have declared Europe’s largest rare earth mine has been discovered nearby.
It’s estimated this territory would have about 585 million tons of minerals, with at least one million tons of praseodymium or neodymium oxides, substances necessary for the manufacture of electric vehicles.
According to the BBC, “rare earths” are a group of 17 chemically similar elements crucial to the manufacture of many hi-tech products. Despite their name, most are abundant in nature but are hazardous to extract.
They are used in many modern devices, from electric cars to smartphones, and in nanotechnology.
Ebba Busch, Swedish Minister of Energy, Trade and Industry, the mining exploitation of the land could only begin in 10 or 15 years.
Locals have reportedly welcome the move and boost in the economy with bookseller Clara Nyström, telling Euronews that the relocation is a significant improvement.
She told the site: “They wanted places to meet, like a big town square, we did not have that [before].
“Also, a more defined shopping area, like our new shopping street, and also – maybe the most important – was the access to nature. We really enjoy outdoor life.”
In all around 450,000 square metres of schools, houses, public and commercial premises will be moved by 2035.
Stefan Mikaelsson, the Deputy Chair from the Board of the Sámi Parliament, told Euronews that nature must be respected during the move.
He said: “Biological diversity in the Arctic is very crucial also for the people of the continent. We cannot just depend on the Amazon and pretend that by protecting it we are then allowed to keep the consumption habits, the extraction of natural resources and gaining profits in the Arctic by endless amount of years.”
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