LKAB and Boliden collaborate to recycle mining waste and create circular products

News November 18, 2021

“Together with Boliden we see an exciting opportunity to develop our plans to include another circular flow that can also remove dependence on fossil products on our way to becoming carbon-free. The sulphuric acid production will also generate excess heat that can be used in our industrial park, as well as fairly large volumes of iron oxide as a by-product. Collaborating in this way is smart, climate-efficient and positive for LKAB’s project to extract critical minerals,” says Jan Moström, President and CEO, LKAB.

Upgrading waste and by-products

Already today more than a third of LKAB’s industrial minerals business is based on upgrading waste and by-products. Circular business models increase materials efficiency and could become an attractive and increasingly important business in the future. Extracting critical minerals such as phosphorus and rare earth elements from LKAB’s existing waste streams requires significant quantities of sulphuric acid. Rather than this being produced from fossil products from oil refineries, waste streams from the Aitik mine have been identified as potential raw material. The plan is for Boliden to establish a plant in Aitik for the production of pyrite concentrate, thereby reducing the need for deposits in Aitik. In parallel, LKAB will establish plants for producing sulphuric acid from the concentrate.

“Increased resource utilisation combined with potential profitability may mean that together our companies can provide even more value in the climate transition. If the current ideas are realised it will provide yet more proof of Northern Sweden’s importance for the future,” says Mikael Staffas, President and CEO, Boliden.

Operational plants by 2027

Subject to an efficient environmental permit process, it is estimated that both LKAB’s production of apatite concentrate in Kiruna and Malmberget as well as the industrial park for further processing into critical minerals – including the production of sulphuric acid, based on pyrite from the Aitik mine – could be operational in 2027.

Using pyrite as a basis for producing sulphuric acid is a known technology, but to be able to make these large investments long-term collaboration is necessary – which the two Swedish mining companies see great opportunities in. The volumes of pyrite concentrate are unlikely to cover the full amount that LKAB needs to produce the volume of sulphuric acid required. In the first instance LKAB will produce phosphorus and rare earth elements from the ongoing mining, but in the future could also expand production by extracting these from mining waste that has been deposited previously. If this becomes a reality, even more sulphuric acid will be needed. In this case, additional pyrite-containing raw materials will be required, which Boliden can produce if the Laver deposit goes into production.

Jan Moström and Mikael Staffas will give presentations and will be available at Svemin’s Autumn Summit that will take place from 10.00 – 16.15 on 18 November at Nalen, Regeringsgatan 74, Stockholm

Facts about Boliden’s planned extraction of pyrite concentrate

Facts about LKAB’s planned production of critical minerals

The EU classifies phosphorus and rare earth elements as critical minerals:

The ores that LKAB mines to produce iron ore also contain phosphorus and earth elements; LKAB is now developing methods of extracting these from what is currently mining waste that is deposited

LKAB aims to establish a new industrial standard for mineral processing that is fossil-free, electrified and circular:

From 2027 LKAB could become a significant producer of critical minerals for agriculture and clean technology:


David Högnelid, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, Special Products Business Area, LKAB
Tel +46 920 381 72,

Klas Nilsson, Director Group Communications, Boliden
Tel. +46 70 453 65 88,

About LKAB:

LKAB is an international mining and minerals group that offers sustainable iron ore, minerals and special products. We are committed to developing carbon-free processes and products by 2045, leading the transformation of the iron and steel industry. Since 1890 we have developed through unique innovations and technological solutions and are driven forward by more than 4,500 employees in 12 countries. In 2020, the LKAB group had sales of about SEK 34 billion. 

About Boliden:

Boliden is a metals company with a focus on sustainable development. Our roots are Nordic, our market global. Our core competence lies within the fields of exploration, mining, smelting and metal recycling. Boliden has around 6,000 employees and an annual turnover of SEK 60 billion. The share is listed in the Large Cap segment on NASDAQ OMX Stockholm.