A huge phosphorite deposit has been discovered in Norway containing enough minerals to meet global demand for batteries and solar panels for the next 100 years, according to the mining company that controls it.
Norge Mining commented that up to 70 billion tonnes of the non-renewable resource may have been discovered in southwestern Norway, along with deposits of other strategic minerals such as titanium and vanadium.
The phosphorite contains high concentrates of phosphorus, which is a key component for developing green technologies, but currently faces significant supply issues.
The German scientist Hennig Brandt discovered phosphorus in 1669 while searching for the philosopher’s stone. While ineffective at turning ordinary metals into gold, it has become an essential component in lithium-ironphosphate batteries in electric vehicles, as well as in solar panels and computer chips.
Russia previously controlled the world’s largest ultrapure phosphorite deposits, and the European Union has warned that these “critical raw materials” are at high supply risk.
The EU is now almost entirely dependent on phosphorite imports from the rest of the world, according to a report by The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, with China, Iraq and Syria also home to large deposits.
The report, which was published before the discovery of the huge Norwegian deposit, warned that the EU should “be concerned about the shortage of phosphorite”.
An article in the scientific journal Nature last year it warned of imminent phosphorus supply disruptions, citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent economic sanctions as a potential cause of market volatility.
The global economy consumes an estimated 50 million tons of phosphorus each year, and scientists warned earlier this year that the planet could face a “phosphorus apocalypse” if supply trends continue.
“The buyers market is becoming increasingly saturated with limited trade, due to political instability in several source countries, as well as international sanctions imposed on others,” Norge Mining noted in a June blog post. “It forces importers to fear an impending crisis.”
Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Jan Christian Vestre said last month that the government was considering speeding up a giant mine at Helleland once analysis of 76 km (47 miles) of drill cores is complete. If approval is granted, the first major mine could start operations in 2028.
The politician pointed out that Norway’s “obligation” was to develop “the most sustainable mineral industry in the world” after the discovery of the minerals.
The mining plans already have the support of the European Raw Materials Alliance, according to local reports, while regional consultations continue.
A European Commission spokesman described the find as “big news” to meet the Commission’s raw material targets, and Norge Mining told Euractiv that the estimated 4,500-meter (14,700-foot) ore body would theoretically be capable of meet global demand for the next century.
Translation of Michelle Padilla