Nordic minerals – history and technology meet
By Ron Hall
The Nordic countries have long been known for their rich deposits of minerals and ores, which have been mined for centuries. In the past, these resources were used to construct strong and durable buildings and to fuel the economy. Today, mining of minerals and ores in the Nordic region remains an important industry, though it has grown and evolved significantly over the years.
The Nordic countries are located in the northern part of Europe and consist of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. These countries are known for their cold climates, but they also have some of the most productive mineral deposits in the world. The most common minerals found in the region are iron ore, copper, zinc, nickel, and gold. Other valuable metals, such as lead, silver, and uranium, can also be found in the region.
The largest mining companies in the Nordic region are located in Sweden and Finland. These companies specialize in the extraction and processing of different minerals and ores. For example, the Swedish mining company LKAB is one of the leading producers of iron ore in the world. LKAB also produces copper, nickel, and zinc. The Finnish mining company Outokumpu is the largest producer of zinc in Europe and also produces copper, nickel, and gold.
The Nordic countries also have a long history of gold mining. In the past, gold was mined in the region for the creation of coins, jewelry, and artwork. Today, gold mining is still a major industry in the region, with a number of companies operating in Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
In addition to mining metals and ores, the Nordic countries are also known for their production of oil and gas. The largest oil and gas companies in the region are located in Norway and include Statoil, Equinor, and Aker BP. These companies are responsible for the majority of Norway’s oil and gas production.
The Nordic region is home to a number of other minerals and resources, such as timber, coal, and peat. Timber is used primarily for construction and paper products, while coal is used for electricity generation and heating. Peat is used for the production of peat-based fuels and fertilizers.
The mining of minerals and ores in the Nordic region is an important industry that contributes significantly to the economies of these countries. As the demand for minerals and ores continues to grow, so too does the need for efficient and responsible mining practices.
The Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU), together with corresponding authorities in the other Nordic countries, produced a report highlighting the potential for extracting critical metals and minerals (CRMs) such as cobalt and lithium, used in the battery industry together with the mineral graphite, as well as rare earth metals which, among other things, are fundamental for engines in electric vehicles and generators in wind turbines.
According to the report:
“The critical raw materials are in several cases of central importance for the green energy transition. The radical technological transformation of society and industry – a green energy transition – which is sought today to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and thereby counteract climate change also entails new and, in many cases, sharply increasing needs for various raw materials. In order to be able to produce, transport and store energy in new, carbon dioxide-reduced and efficient ways, as well as electrify areas that today are based on fossil-based technology, such as the automotive sector, specific technology is required that requires secure access to a number of equally specific raw materials.”
The report found that in mineral-richness, the Nordic bedrock could be compared with the most mineral-rich areas of the world, such as Canada, the USA, Brazil and Australia, and could supply almost all the critical raw materials defined by the EU. The transformation of the current ‘high-carbon emission’ into a ‘low-carbon emission’ society is an essential part of climate change mitigation. At the core of this is what can be called a ‘Green Energy Transition’, an over- arching transition from non-renewables to renewables-based production, storage, transmission and use of energy. This is a major technological change that includes significantly increasing demand for raw materials of all kinds which, combined with the general technological development of society and industry, have already resulted in many globally major economic players, such as the EU, to define sets of mineral-based raw materials as critical (CRM). A raw material is deemed ‘critical’ if it is of high importance to the economy and if its supply is associated with a high risk of disruption. Secure and resilient supply chains of the CRMs are essential for the eco- nomic security of any industrialised country or larger economic entity, the Nordic region included.
The report further underlines that continued research and a joint Nordic database would make it easier for decision-makers and businesses to see the opportunities in this area.
Secure and resilient supply chains of the CRMs are essential for the economic security of any country, including the Nordic region and Europe, to facilitate a technological leadership. Many of the CRMs are furthermore essential in climate change control, to achieve a low carbon society. In the context of the green energy transition, recycling is far from enough to meet the increasing projected demand for CRMs. For example, global demand for lithium and graphite, two of the most important raw materials for electric vehicle batteries, is estimated to grow by more than 40 times up to 2040 in a scenario where the world achieves its present climate goals. Even with forecasted increases in recycling, an IEA report in 2021 suggested that “recycled quantities of copper, lithium, nickel and cobalt from spent batteries could reduce combined primary supply requirements for these minerals by around 10 %”. Hence, there is an urgent need for mapping the availability of, and potential for CRM supply also from the Nordic bedrock.
Gungnir Resources Inc. [GUG-TSXV, ASWRF-OTC PINK] is engaged in nickel and gold exploration in Sweden with its flagship Lappvattnet and Rormyrberget nickel projects located in the eastern part of the Vasterbotten District in northern Sweden, an area with a geological setting that has been compared to the Thompson Nickel Belt in Manitoba and is well known for its gold and volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits.
Gungnir’s portfolio includes the Knaften project, which hosts a developing intrusion-hosted gold system, and VMS (zinc-copper) and copper-nickel targets. All are open for expansion and further discovery.
Led by CEO Jari Paakki, a highly experienced mining executive with 25 years in gold and metal exploration under his belt, including 12 years with Teck Resources Ltd. (TECK.B-TSX, TECK.A-TSX, TECK-NYSE), Gungnir is hoping to attract the attention of major mining industry players after recently announcing impressive drill results from its high grade Lappvattnet nickel project.
The company appears to have its timing right as demand for nickel is expected to surge due to increasing demand in the electric vehicle sector.
Gungnir has a 100% interest in the Lappvattnet and Rormyrberget projects, which are situated about 40 kilometres apart and are held under two separate permits covering an area of 471.4 hectares. Lappvattnet contains an inferred resource of 780,000 tonnes of grade 1.35% nickel or 231 million pounds of nickel. Rormyrberget hosts a larger but lower grade inferred resource of 36.8 million tonnes of grade 0.19% nickel or 154 million pounds.
It is worth noting that these projects are located approximately one hour south by road from the major industrial centres of Boliden and Skelleftea, where mining and smelting are well established and where a new battery manufacturing plant is under construction. They are also within easy driving range of the metal processing operations held by Boliden AB [BOL-NASDAQ], which has major mining and smelting operations in Sweden.
Gungnir’s recent focus has been on the Lappvattnet deposit, where the company is engaged in a systematic program that aims to upgrade and expand the existing resource following recommendations outlined in a 2020 technical report. So far, the company has drilled a total of 5,435 metres in 45 holes during 2021 and 2022.
Judging by recent results, this effort is clearly paying off. Since the first drill program was launched in August, 2021, exploration has delivered consistent shallow drill hits of high-grade and wide-grade nickel mineralization.
The highest-grade nickel intercept drilled so far is contained in hole LAP22-25, which returned 4.04% nickel over 5.76 metres within a broader interval of 1.49% nickel over 18.28 metres starting at a down-hole depth of 57.72 metres.
“All of our hits are less than 100 metres below surface and cover a strike length of 400 metres in the western and central parts of the Lappvattnet deposit,’’ said Paakki. “Looking ahead, our plan is to continue defining this high-grade nickel deposit, and the new footwall target, further to the east and at depth where it has only been sparsely drilled in the past,’’ he said.
Hole LAP22-25 was drilled in the central part of the Lappvattnet nickel resource, splitting a gap between two historic holes (LAP74292 and LAP76008), the company said. The hole appears to have drilled into a thickened mineralized zone, possibly a fold hinge similar to LAP22-10 (located 80 metres to the east) which returned 2.35% nickel over 9.0 metres, including 3.02% nickel over 5.66 metres starting at a down hole depth of 66 metres.
The company has said further results from holes drilled in the central part of Lappvattnet (12 drill holes) are expected to be reported in January and into early February, 2023. Complete 2022 results will be collectively tabulated once all results are received, the company said.
Gungnir offers a low-risk window on exploration upside in both gold and base metals. Priced at just under 10 cents on January 25, 2023, the shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of 17.5 cents and $0.065, leaving the company with a market cap of just $11.4 million, based on 119.6 million shares outstanding.
Management and directors hold 12.5% of Gungnir, which has $2.7 million in working capital and no debt.
If it can attract the interest of a major, Gungnir would likely accelerate its exploration efforts in Sweden. However, it recently caught the attention of Altius Minerals Corp. [ALS-TSX, OTCQX] which has the option to acquire a 2.0% gross sales royalty on the Lappvattnet and Rormyrberget projects for $8 million, as well as a 1.0% gross sales royalty on Knaften for $2 million. “Having Altius involved de-risks the project,’’ said Chris Robbins, Gungnir’s Chief Financial Officer during an interview with Resource World.
The company recently added the Hemberget property to its Swedish portfolio, which covers an 11-kilometre-long gabbro-ultramafic intrusion, and copper nickel-target.
Aside from nickel, Gungnir offers investors a window on gold exploration via its 100%-owned Knaften project, which covers 4,887 hectares and is located about 100 kilometres west of the nickel projects along a regional trend known as the “Gold Line.’’ The Gold Line hosts a number of gold deposits, including Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.’s (AEM-TSX, AEM-NYSE) 2.0-million-ounce Barsele gold project. Gungnir has made a number of new discoveries at Knaften, including a potentially sizeable intrusion-related gold system (Knaften 300), a new VMS zinc-copper base metal target, known as Rodingtrask, and a new copper nickel target.