Norway has long been an important supplier of minerals to
Europe, but the country is coming under increasing pressure to
balance its ambitions for mining sector growth against
In 2013, the Norwegian ministry of trade and industry
produced a "Strategy for the Mineral Industry", which sought
to enhance Norway’s attractiveness to mining
companies while allaying the fears of the environmental
"The Norwegian mineral industry shall be among the
world’s most environmentally friendly," the policy
said, stressing that "mining companies must show social
Norway’s non-metallic mining industry is a
significant earner for the country. According to the Geological
Survey of Norway (NGU), in 2015, 52% of the industrial minerals
produced in the country were exported.
These included ground calcium carbonate, for use in paper
manufacturing; high purity quartz (HPQ), used in glass,
ceramics, optic and electronic instruments and solar cells;
graphite and lithium, used in lubricants and batteries;
titanium dioxide (TiO2) and titanium slag, used respectively
as a pigment in white paint and in titanium metal.
Dolomite and marble are also mined in Norway. Hustadmarmor
AS, owned by Swiss industrial minerals conglomerate, Omya, is
the world’s largest supplier of ground marble
filler to the international paper industry from its operations
in More og Romsdal county, in northwest Norway.
Norway is the biggest global producer of olivine, a
magnesium-iron silicate used in iron and steel production as a
substitute for dolomite to reduce CO2 emissions from steel
plants, and to absorb heavy metal pollutants in a variety of
At Aheim, also in More og Romsdal, Sibelco Nordic AS, a
local subsidiary of Belgium-based Sibelco, extracts olivine
from one of the world’s largest and purest olivine
deposits where reserves are estimated to be more than 500m
tonnes. The company’s sales in 2011 were 2.2m
tonnes, about 40% of global olivine production. Most is
exported to Europe, along with quartz, feldspar and nepheline
syenite also produced by Sibelco Nordic.
With mines on the northern island of Senja, Skaland Graphite
AS is one of only two producers of flake graphite in
In Naustdal municipality, in western Norway’s
Sogn og Fjordane county, large deposits of rutile, with an
estimated in situ value of Norwegian Krone (NOK) 180bn
($22.8m*) have been identified.
The Quartz Corp Norway, one of the world’s
leading HPQ producers, owns a mine and processing plant at
Drag, in Nordland county, northern Norway, while Elkem Salten,
a subsidiary of Norwegian mineral group Elkem, is building a
new quartz mine at Nasafjell, also in northern Norway, close to
the Swedish border.
And in the Hjerkinn area, south-central Norway, Sibelco
Nordic has a significant nepheline syenite operation.
A vital industry
The NGU calculated that the country’s total
mining industry turnover was NOK12.5bn ($1.6bn) in 2015, with
sales volumes of 98m tonnes – slightly up from
2014’s figure of 96m tonnes.
Norway’s sales of industrial minerals,
according to the NGU, fell slightly however to NOK2.5bn ($316m)
in from NOK2.7bn ($341m) in 2014.
Analysts Euromonitor estimated that Norway consumed 72.5bn
tonnes of non-metallic, non-energy minerals domestically in
2016, up 0.2% on 2015 figures which were in turn up 0.6% from
the previous year.
Euromonitor dessignates this category as "domestic material
consumption", which measures the total amount of materials
directly used by an economy and is defined as the annual
quantity of raw materials extracted from the domestic
territory, plus all physical imports minus all physical
Norway’s most valuable non-metallic mineral
export products in 2015 were ilmenite, TiO2, olivine,
nepheline syenite and quartz/quartzite, according to NGU
Norway has large resources of titanium minerals and
Europe’s largest rutile mine is being developed by
Nordic Mining at Engebo Mountain, in the Sunnfjord region,
A spokesperson for the Norwegian Mineral Industry Association
(Norsk Bergindustri) told IM that there is a healthy pipeline
of titanium mineral developments in Norway.
"One of our members, Titania AS, is looking to develop the
world’s largest ilmenite deposit and Nordic
Mining was recently given the go ahead to develop [the
Engebo] rutile mine. This implies that momentum within the
industry is positive," they said.
"Technological development is increasing the
world’s need for industrial minerals and Europe is
a large mineral consumer with low self-sufficiency," they
Nordic Mining has said it is expecting to produce 100,000
tpa rutile concentrate and 100,000 tpa garnet concentrate from
Engebo. The decision to produce garnet as a by-product was
based on a new Norwegian government regulation that allows for
increased use of silica minerals in abrasive applications
– a move highlighted in the US Geological
Survey’s 2013 Minerals Yearbook, released in
Commenting on Nordic Mineral’s Engebo deposit,
the USGS said that the 2.5km-long rutile-bearing eclogite body
reportedly contains a mineral resource of 154m tonnes eclogite,
at an average grade of 3.8% rutile.
Nordic Mining has signed a memorandum of understanding with
leading pigment producer Cristal Global Inc, a Saudi
Arabia-based corporation, to develop rutile products from
Engebo ore to meet Cristal’s titanium raw material
The company has also acknowledged that it intends to take
advantage of growing demand for garnet, which is increasingly
replacing quartz sand in various applications as an
environmentally friendly substitute, while its use in
water-jet cutting and abrasives is also expected to increase.
Projections for strong growth in Norway’s mining
industry have prompted environmental concerns in a country
where conservation issues carry strong political weight.
In anticipation of likely opposition, most mining companies
in Norway go to great lengths to demonstrate how they plan to
minimise the environmental impacts of their
At the Engebo project, Nordic Mining has said its plan to
dispose tailings into a fjord at a depth of 300 metres is a
safe way of getting rid of its mine waste.
Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment
apparently agree, having granted all the necessary
environmental licences to the company.
But Greenpeace Norway is fighting the proposals and
describes Nordic Mining’s intention to dump
tailings in fjords as "unacceptable".
A spokesperson for Greenpeace said: "We strongly urge Norway
to follow international practices on this. The issue of dumping
of mining waste is a big and ongoing conflict in Norway."
"We believe Norwegian mining waste must be handled in a safe
way in land, and eventually filled back into the mine.
Dumping it at sea just because it is cheap is no solution."
A report by the Nordic Council of Ministers – a
regional body uniting Norway with Sweden, Finland, Denmark and
Iceland – released earlier this year, entitled
"Towards Sustainability in Nordic Mining", highlighted the need
for the sector to improve its stance on protecting the
It argued that given the economic significance of the Nordic
mining sector, "it is important to determine what the industry
needs to prioritise when developing sustainability".
The report suggested that, in some instances, "protection of
the environment should be priority number one and not
subordinated to economic profitability". It also stressed that
the "polluter pays" principle, which dictates that whoever is
responsible for an industrial accident should pay the clean-up
costs, should also be applied to environmental impact and
carbon dioxide emissions from the mining industry and that no
subsidies should be paid for consuming energy or disposing of
Norway imposes strict environmental planning controls via
recently implemented or updated laws, such as the Planning and
Building Act 2008, which insists on environmental
considerations being taken into account for any new building
structure. Others, like the Nature Diversity Act 2009, aim to
maintain natural habitats and require organisations to take all
reasonable steps to avoid causing damage to them.
A Minerals Act was introduced in 2009 to promote socially
responsible use of mineral resources. It says the
government’s Directorate of Mining is responsible
for issuing exploration and extraction feasibility permits when
a potential mineral zone is identified, prior to the
commencement of any extraction operations. Licences are granted
on the understanding that "operations on mineral deposits shall
be carried out in accordance with good mining practice".
Yet even when companies comply with all the major
legislation, there are still specific issues particular to
individual mining developments which excite concern from
environmentalists – a trend which is common across
Mining companies in Finland, which borders Norway, are also
facing mounting scrutiny from environmental groups.
According to the Geological Survey of Finland (Geologian
Tutkimuskeskus - GTK), the country is a global leader in the
sustainable utilisation of mineral resources and the minerals
sector is one of the key foundations of the Finnish national
Finland’s National Mineral Strategy, released
in 2010, states: "Finland should take a proactive role in
implementing the principles of sustainable development
throughout the extractive mineral sector, ensuring that mining
and processing is compliant with established best practice
It argues that the more natural resources that can be
produced sustainably in Finland, the more experience the
country will have of balancing its environmental priorities
with those of its mining industry.
Essentially, Finland’s government does not want
to limit its mineral production or restrict the growth of its
mining industry, but hopes instead to bracket as much of the
sector as possible as being sustainable.
This supportive environment means that Finland consistently
scores well in international surveys of the most attractive
jurisdictions for mining companies to operate in.
Finland is already a significant producer of non-metallic
minerals, being the leading talc producer in Europe and an
important source of chromite, biotite, feldspar and mica.
It also has ambitions to become a lithium supplier. Finnish
company Keliber Oy is on the verge of opening a new lithium
carbonate production facility in Kaustinen, western Finland.
An affiliate of Norway’s Nordic Mining, Keliber
Oy plans to produce lithium from spodumene concentrate from
the end of 2018 or early 2019, and will aim to sell its
output into the lithium-ion battery market.
Opposition vs opportunity
Both Norway and Finland, along with the wider Scandinavian
region, have a significant opportunity to increase their
supply of minerals to Europe as new technologies such as
electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels and wind turbines
grow rapidly into major new industries in the continent.
But while many welcome the economic rewards of capitalising
on these trends, few Scandinavians want to see their mining
industries grow at the expense of their environments.
The answer appears to be careful planning, implementation
and management of policies designed to manage the interests of
different stakeholders, while also ensuring that development is
rapid enough to help Scandinavia’s mineral
industry to realise its potential.
Elsewhere in Scandinavia...
Euromonitor recorded Sweden’s domestic material
consumption of non-metallic minerals at 87.5bn tonnes last
year, down 0.2% on 2015 levels.
Svenska Minerals AB is one of the sector’s
leading companies, producing significant volumes of limestone
and lime, along with dolomite, magnesium hydroxide, and
magnesium oxide. The company also owns subsidiary Svenska
Kyanite AB that produces kyanite at Halskoberg.
The country is also a significant exporter of feldspar.
Low-lying Denmark has limited industrial mineral production,
but does host deposits of chalk, clays (including bentonite),
limestone and salt.
Euromonitor recorded Danish domestic material consumption of
non-metallic minerals at 58.2bn tonnes in 2016, down 1.7% on
the previous year’s figures.
In 2013, Denmark-based Damolin A/S was the
world’s only commercial producer of mo-clay (or
moler), which is a natural mixture of diatomite and smectite
clay, used for, among other things, cat litter, filtration
systems and insulation bricks. Its main facilities are on the
Mors and Fur Islands, within the Limfjord in northern
Meanwhile, Netherlands-based coatings giant AkzoNobel
produces salt at Mariager, in Jutland. The USGS has described
the salt produced as suitable for the electrolytic production
of caustic lye, chlorine, and sodium chlorate. AkzoNobel was
issued a new 30-year licence to extract salt from the site in