Traceability of minerals enables development of responsibility in mining and battery industries
Finnish Minerals Group is taking part in the development and industrial implementation of traceability of minerals within several joint projects during the next five years.
Tracing the origins of minerals is generating worldwide interest at the same time as the demand for them is increasing due to, for example, the electrification of transport and the solutions for production of renewable energy. Verified data on origins can be used to ensure responsible production of minerals and to increase the usage of metals available from recycling.
According to the Chief Technology Officer Jani Kiuru, the pressure towards development of traceability comes, first and foremost, from two main sources.
“Firstly, OEMs of electric vehicles are increasingly interested in the origins of the battery minerals. Secondly, there are expectations on the utilization of responsibly sourced raw materials set by the European policy makers. The recently published European Green Deal being one example of this.”
There is an expectation of competitive advantage arising from traceability within the battery value chain. If a mining company in the beginning of the value chain is able to verify that the metals it produces are produced in a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable way, it can very well be recognized as a preferred material supplier.
Towards an industrial solution
The project portfolio assembled by Finnish Minerals Group focusing on the development of traceability covers the years 2020–2024 and contains significant collaboration both nationally and on a European level. The recently started BATTRACE co-innovation project funded by Business Finland gathers together several Finnish research institutes and companies.
According to Jani Kiuru, the objective of BATTRACE is to determine the current status of initiatives and planned activities around the traceability topic. The project will provide insight on where the focus of these activities should be and who are the most relevant partners for taking the work forward. After this the next steps will focus on developing a business model and piloting the planned approach.
The industrial implementation, to be carried out as European-wide collaboration, is planned to take place during years 2023–2024. Finnish Minerals Group is participating in the preparation of the second joint European IPCEI (Important projects of Common European Interest) project on battery value chain, which plays a central role within the industrial implementation of mineral traceability.
“Traceability challenges the mining and battery industries to operate ever more responsibly, as it increases transparency. And if there were verified data available on the responsibility of the minerals used in the product, consumers could be guided to make more sustainable choices,” Kiuru contemplates.
Wide interest is just good
Traceability of the metals used in batteries interests many actors. In Northern Europe this has been driven by Finland and Sweden. In the private sector, blockchain technology has already been piloted i.a., in tracing the origin of recycled cobalt.
“Database based blockchain technology has until now been utilized in pilots focusing on tracing elements. We, however, are aiming to widen the perspective. To increase the transparency of operation, data on, for example, the carbon footprint and social impact can be combined to the mineral data,” Kiuru adds.