Finnish
Minerals
Group

15/02/2019

Industrial cluster for battery metals growing in Finland

Managing the effects of climate change poses a huge challenge. This has resulted in powerful reactions in state administration, companies and among consumers. The development is influencing markets powerfully. It is a significant challenge in the entire chain, which begins by securing the appropriate raw materials.

One considerable measure is reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of transportation. This is a central focus area, in which many market areas are seeing rapid development.

In November 2017, the European Commission presented targets for carbon dioxide emissions from cars that would reduce car CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Emission targets guide people to use environmentally-friendlier cars. Several countries also use tax incentives, which seek to accelerate the electrification of transportation and reduction of emissions.

In 2016, there were over two million electric cars in the world. International Energy Agency predicts that by the year 2030, the number of electric cars will be up to 140 million.

Current electric cars are powered by a chargeable battery containing different battery metals. In addition to lithium, batteries also contain e.g. varying amounts of aluminum, cobalt, manganese, nickel and graphite, depending on their type. Also Copper is always needed in the electric motors.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission’s Commission for the Energy Union, has highlighted the fact that EU is missing a battery production chain, all the way from raw materials to manufacturing and recycling. The commission has announced that it supports the future generation’s battery production and manufacturing in Europe. The European battery industry market is estimated to total 250 billion euros in 2025.

Approximately 65 percent of all cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many instances, such as Amnesty International and the Drive Sustainability alliance, have criticized problem areas in Congo.

This offers companies operating in Finland an opportunity to be profiled as a producer of sustainably sourced, mined and enriched cobalt and as a platform for high-level research.

Apart from Finland, the production of battery metals in Europe has been low. Europe is dependent on the importation of metallic raw materials. Currently, about a quarter of the world’s metal raw materials is used in the EU region, compared to only a few percent that is produced. The production figure should be increased, as metallic raw materials should be produced in a way that is responsible for the environment and society. Although the significance of recycling keeps increasing, the majority of metallic raw materials continues to come from the mines.

Cobalt in Finland is being produced in Boliden Oy’s Kevitsa and Kylylahti mines as well as Terrafame’s Sotkamo mine. These same mines also produce nickel and significant amounts of e.g. copper.

Finland has numerous identified cobalt and nickel deposits that have yet to be utilized, along with Europe’s largest cobalt reserves. Our entire battery mineral potential is not yet even known.

At the start of the year, the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) launched a project that evaluates the occurrence of minerals required in battery production, including e.g. cobalt, lithium and flake graphite in Finland. The goal is to identify new areas where finding usable deposits is likely.

Finland does not yet have lithium production, but Keliber Oy has advanced plans on starting production from the pegmatite deposit in Kaustinen, where the aim is to enrich spodumene into lithium carbonate. Through further refinement, this will result in raw material suited for the battery industry. It appears to be possible that a significant lithium cluster will be developed in Finland.

Potential lithium deposits have also been discovered elsewhere in Finland. A significant share of the world’s cobalt is refined in Finland, although the majority of it is currently based on imported raw materials.

According to the Geological Survey of Finland, the data that has been evaluated as the best in the world is a good starting point for evaluating the mineral potential in Finland. Promising areas and deposits have been identified across the country, both in battery minerals and e.g. gold.

Several high-level production plants in further refinement operate in Finland, many of which produce different nickel and cobalt products for e.g. battery industry needs. The plan for the production of nickel and cobalt sulphate announced by Terrafame would be a significant addition to Finnish battery chemicals production. The share of metal refinement in the importation of goods has amounted to approximately 10 percent, yet new demand is creating new growth potential. A good example of this is BASF’s plan to invest in Harjavalta and strengthen cooperation with Norilsk.

The development work has also activated high-level research in minerals and materials, all the way to circular economy and technology solutions. Finland is taking over the EU’s impressive role in research in the field. With cooperation between the government, research institutions, companies and universities, we can create an attractive research environment for the needs of the growth sector. There is a good opportunity for the industrial cluster developing in Finland to grow and attract investments and research funding.

It is important on a national level to strengthen research in the field and create facilities for an industry of a high added value to grow as the electric car boom accelerates. We have high-level competence, raw materials and operations in nearly all stages of the refinement chain. A goal should be set on increasing mineral study, mineral and material research development as well as strengthening the entire industrial cluster in Finland.

The change and electrification of transportation are increasing the number of electric cars. Battery minerals research, responsible production and refinement need to be secured close to the users. Finland is the only country in Europe where most battery metals are produced. Their offering and production levels need to be increased further. This offers a growth platform for the entire industrial cluster.

 

Mika Nykänen

Director General

Geological Survey of Finland