With increasingly scarce mineral resources in Europe, Norwegian industry can play a key role in the future delivery of minerals. Norway is a major supplier of minerals like limestone and coal on the global market, and its industrial success stories include Hustadmarmor, the world’s leading supplier of lime prodcts to the paper industry.
The Geological Survey of Norway (NGU) is Norway’s national knowledge institution on bedrock, mineral resources, surficial deposits and groundwater. NGU has mapped geological sites of national interest for exports. One of the leading experts on mineral resources in Norway is NGU’s Peer-Richard Neeb, and he emphasizes that a number of minerals are essential for contemporary life.
Norwegian Minerals Industry – At A Glance
The Norwegian minerals industry consists of five categories of raw materials:
– Industrial minerals – limestone, olivine, nepheline syenite, quartz, dolomite, etc.
– Dimension stone – larvikite, granite, marble, flagstone, etc.
– Raw materials for construction (aggregates) – sand, gravel, crushed rock and clay
– Metallic ores – iron, nickel and titanium oxide
– Fuel minerals – coal
“In our modern society, we are unable to do without, for example, iron and steel, limestone for cement, paper and agriculture, crushed rock for roads, gravel for concrete, and coal for many industrial processes,” says Neeb.
Neeb has been programme leader in connection with NGU’s work in preparing an overview of strategic long-term mineral deposits. Here, long-term refers to deposits with an anticipated start-up of exploitation in the next 50 years.
“These are deposits with potential for significant export, or which could deliver raw materials to export-oriented processing or refining companies in Norway,” Neeb explains.
Aggregates are difficult to export because they are very sensitive to logistics, but Norway’s largest producer of aggregates, NorStone, has found its niche around the North Sea.
“Half the cost is logistics, and you have to know your trade,” says Kjell Apeland, NorStone’s Area Manager for Aggregates. NorStone has delivered aggregates for the new bridge between Denmark and Sweden at Øresund and 17 oil rigs in the North Sea. Additionally, the company has customers in England, France, Belgium, Poland, Holland and Iceland.
“Our next big project is to deliver 250,000 tonnes of high-quality gravel to a high-speed railway line in England before April 2005. We export 30 percent of our production,” Apeland says.
Norwegian aggregates produce 50 million tonnes of crushed rock and gravel annually, and 10 million tonnes are destined for export. NorStone has an 11 percent market share of the aggregate production, and Apeland is confident that the company’s export figures will increase.
“We are the leading branch of the mineral industry, and in the future there will be a greater need for our products. Resources have been scarce in Europe the last decade, and this is our opportunity,” he says.
NorStone is predominantly located in Rogaland, a mineral-rich county in southwestern Norway, and when logistics are vital, market proximity is important.
“Our products are competitive because of durability and lightness, and we have a good location with regard to our European markets,” says Apeland.
Limestone – The Largest Export
Limestone is Norway’s biggest mineral export, and in 2003 the industry exported limestone and lime products for 186 million. Hustadmarmor is one of the world’s largest producers of limestone filler and coating for the paper industry. The products from Hustadmarmor are liquid, and the company transports lime slurry to industry all across Europe.
“We have the proper raw materials, which are marble in the surrounding mountains, electricity and fresh water,” says Organizational Manager Alf Reistad.
Hustadmarmor is located on the Møre & Romsdal County coast in northwest Norway and since the company uses modern ships, it doesn’t have to use tank trucks to get its products to its markets in continental Europe – Germany and Holland.
North Cape Minerals exports about four millions tonnes of industrial minerals such as nepheline syenite, feldspars, quartz and olivine annually.
In addition to the paper industry, lime can be used for purposes such as cement, agriculture, paint, plastic and toothpaste, but paper is the real moneymaker. “Ninety-nine percent of our production goes to the paper industry. Virtually all our earnings come from the paper industry,” says Reistad.
Franzefoss is a company with a focus on dolomite, a mineral with many of the same properties as limestone. Dolomite can be used, for example, as filling material in paint, in carpets and in the glass industry.”We are competitive because of the purity of the product. You have dolomite many other places in Europe, but our dolomite is very white,” says Franzefoss dolomite specialist Stein Olstad, who explains that the quality is the same, but the colour of Franzefoss’ dolomite makes it more attractive on the market.
“In continental Europe, you will find more sedimentary dolomite, and in England it is grey. Customers want to use our dolomite, which is additive-free,” he says.
North Cape Minerals is a company specializing in industrial minerals such as nepheline syenite, feldspars, quartz and olivine, and it exports 95 percent of its production – about four million tonnes annually.
“We have grown from a single mineral company to become a leading supplier of industrial minerals for the steel, glass and ceramic industries,” says Sales and Marketing Director Ragnar Vaksdal. “Now we are a worldwide supplier to the glass, fibreglass, ceramic, paint and coatings, and foundry industries,” he says.
for Norwegian Minerals – 2003
Coal at 78 Degrees North
The Store Norske Group (SNSG) is Norway’s sole coal producer and the northernmost operator in the world. The group is located on the Spitsbergen Island (Svalbard) at 78 degrees North latitude, about 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole.
Most of the coal in these mines is used in the metallurgical industry, but some is employed for generating power and manufacturing cement. Exported coal from SNSG goes to Germany, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Iceland and Portugal.
Store Norske feels that it is important to harvest the resources in a sustainable manner, and the group does its utmost to minimize the hazards to the fragile Spitsbergen nature. “We will always be among the most environmentally friendly coal producers in the world,” says Sales and Shipping Director Venche Horseide.
“Our mines are above ground, and therefore the methane created when making the coal diffuses. Thus, there is little metal left in the air, only 0.9 kilograms per tonne of coal. In many other markets, it is not uncommon to have 20-30 kilos per tonne,” she explains.
The Store Norske mines, located on Spitsbergen Island, are above ground. Therefore, the methane created in coal production is diffused.