The Nordic region has a long tradition in producing and processing of minerals, metals, and other raw materials. In addition, the region has started an ambitious journey towards reduced environmental and climate impact from the minerals sector. Going forward, the need for minerals and metals will be higher than ever. The green transition in for example energy and transport and outspoken targets on carbon neutrality, as well as digitalization of economy and industrial ecosystems require a multitude of these raw materials.
In enabling this ongoing green transition, the Nordics have a unique position to take the lead within sustainable mineral and metal production. With collaboration across sectors and value chains, innovation can be accelerated.
The Nordics Can Be Essential in Making the Green Energy Transition Truly Green
A 2021 report from Nordic Innovation shows that the Nordic region has a large and untapped potential as a sustainable supplier of the raw materials the world needs to become a low-carbon emission society.
The Sustainable Minerals program is one of eight initiatives launched by the five Nordic ministers of trade and industry. The initiatives represent a determined advance towards a stronger and more sustainable Nordic region and support the vision for the Nordic region to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030 by focusing on:
- Raw materials critical for enabling a green Nordic region.
- Increased circularity and recovery of mineral resources.
- Life cycle and traceability.
- Strengthened Nordic mineral ecosystem and value chains to drive the transition.
- Social responsibility and strategic community involvement of the minerals sector.
- In long term, new Nordic solutions, technologies, systems and best practices at local and international markets.
The program will be built around four project areas:
Nordic Critical Raw Material Resilience
For the necessary green energy transition, there is an urgent need for mapping the availability and demand of so called critical raw materials in the Nordic industrial ecosystems. In addition, to envision the Nordic strongholds in the context of green energy transition. The list of a Nordic critical raw materials by Nordic Innovation will identify which materials are economically and strategically most important and critical to the green future of the Nordics, but also at the same time have high supply risk.
The Nordic Critical Raw Material Resilience project was completed in September 2021 with the report: The Nordic Supply Potential of Critical Metals and Minerals for a Green Energy Transition.
The report lays the foundation of the further activities within the Sustainable Minerals program. The program will move forward during 2022 and work with the project areas: Traceability, Recovery and Recycling and Strengthened Nordic mineral ecosystem and network for sustainability.
The lifecycle perspective and traceability of minerals and metals are essential for advancing the sustainability as well as for the most efficient use of these resources. The project will kickstart the development of common methods to improve metal and mineral statistics with regards to the lifecycle of metals, for the benefit of Nordic industries.
Recovery and recycling
Reducing mining waste as well as extracting and reusing some of the useful materials that earlier would have gone to mining waste has been a big priority in the minerals sector. To support the transition towards the circular economy, the Nordics will create a systematic classification method for secondary mineral resources as comparison to primary resources. This classification method will aim at stimulating new, innovative techniques and methods for increased metal recycling and recovery. In addition, increasing the utilization of secondary resources and helping companies to map their mineral resources.
Strengthened Nordic mineral ecosystem and network for sustainability
An overall objective in the program is to accelerate collaboration and exchange of experience across the Nordics. Sustainable material supply and production requires collaboration across sectors and a diverse range of partnerships and stakeholders.
The Nordic countries will not achieve transformative change by acting alone. A Nordic approach to sustainable minerals will support and contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda and work to strengthen the ambitions of EU Green Deal. It will also allow for ecosystem partners to take part in the Horizon Europe missions.
As a part of this project area, Nordic Innovation has started the project: The Nordic Forum on Raw Materials focusing on the development of an annual conference for Nordic actors within the metals and mining sector.
One of the main goals of this program is to increase the awareness of minerals in the Nordics. The program will not have one specific project on Awareness, however, there will be ongoing activities with the aim to create awareness. Nordic Battery Collaboration - a webinar series dedicated to Nordic collaboration and opportunities within the battery business - is an example of such activity.
Nordic Innovation has joined forces with Nordic Council of Ministers Working Group on Circular Economy (NCE) in a project that seeks to investigate and propose actions on how the Nordic region can increase recycling of waste that is high in critical raw materials, in line with the EU Critical Raw Materials Act Article 25.1a.
The required ambitious climate action and green transition at both European and Nordic level, cannot be achieved without minerals, metals and other raw materials. Minerals are key enablers and necessary raw materials for low-carbon technologies in energy and transport.
According to the World Bank (2020), to meet the growing demand for the green energy technologies, the need for certain minerals could increase by nearly 500% by 2050.
Mineral and metal raw materials are also essential to the functioning and integrity of a wide range of clean and digital industrial ecosystems according to the European Commission (2020) - to infrastructure development, to construction and buildings, as well as to clean consumer technologies.
The Sustainable Minerals program and the fours project areas are developed in cooperation with:
- Geological Survey of Finland (GTK)
- Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS)
- Geological Survey of Norway (NGU)
- Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU)
- Iceland GeoSurvey (ÍSOR)
- Ministry of Mineral Resources Government of Greenland (MMR)
- Norwegian Directorate of Mining (DIRMIN)
- University of Iceland (HÍ)