– The European Union has targeted magnesium as a priority critical mineral to cut dependence on China and three firms are gearing up to produce it in Europe for the first time since 2001.
Below are facts about magnesium and the three potential projects.
Magnesium is a shiny grey, very light metal that provides strength as an ingredient in aluminium and steel alloys used in aluminium cans, car wheels and airplane wings.
The mineral is abundant in the earth’s crust and also can be produced from seawater, but smelting is more complicated and is very energy-intensive.
China dominates production, accounting for 88% of the world’s supply. Other producers include Brazil, Russia and the United States.
Europe accounts for about 20% of global magnesium demand at around 200,000 tonnes a year, but the last European magnesium production sites – in Norway and France – closed in 2001.
Magnesium prices in China hit record highs last year and are still double the level seen 12 months ago.
The EU-funded organisation EIT Raw Materials has identified three potential projects that could allow a restart of magnesium production in Europe, two in Romania and one in Bosnia.
Verde is working on reviving an old mine in western Romania and plans to build an integrated processing plant. The company, supported by private equity group Amerocap, is seeking a mining licence from the government and hopes to launch production in 2025.
“Verde Magnesium is aiming to offer a consistent supply of processed magnesium from Romania amounting to approximately 30,000 tonnes a year – or 15% of EU demand – by 2030,” said Chairman Bernd Martens.
The company aims to process waste from a former state-own chemical site in central Romania to extract magnesium and other minerals. The firm did not respond to enquiries, but EIT Raw Materials said the company is feasibility studies for operations that could produce 22,000 tonnes of magnesium a year.
The owners of the project have declined to be identified, but EIT Raw Materials said the firm plans to build a mine and processing facility that could initially produce 15,000 tonnes of magnesium a year, with potential to expand to 50,000 tonnes.