The global race to develop batteries for electric cars is reaching deep into the pine forests of central Sweden, where a dormant graphite mine is getting a new lease on life.
Woxna, situated about 160 miles (259 kilometers) north of Stockholm, was mothballed in 2001 amid a slump in prices. Now, a Canadian company called Leading Edge Materials Corp. is preparing to revive operations.
Though graphite has grabbed fewer headlines than other battery components like lithium and cobalt, whose prices have surged in recent months, the carbon material makes up a large part of the raw material costs.
Leading Edge’s push in Sweden is part of a wider trend in recent years of mining companies snapping up European permits as carmakers rush to develop electric models. Finland, Portugal and the U.K. have attracted prospectors. In addition to graphite, the Vancouver-based firm is also studying lithium deposits near Woxna, and has plans to go after cobalt in neighboring Finland.
The company wants to be a “one-stop shop” for battery manufacturers, according to Chief Executive Officer Blair Way. It’s testing a purified form of graphite from Woxna with the goal of making enough by 2020 to sell to battery-makers such as NorthVolt AB, which was founded by a former Tesla Inc. executive and plans to start large-scale output in Sweden.
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