The world is witnessing a rush of interest in mineral exploration.
The interest has been, and is expected to continue to be, particularly strong in Finland. The country has already yielded what can be described as one of the most promising mineral deposits in all of Europe, according to Tapio Halkoaho, a senior scientist at the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK).
Sakatti, a deposit located in Sodankylä, Lapland, is believed to hold copper, nickel and platinum-group metals worth tens of billions of euros.
“Sakatti is by far the most promising in terms of potential value because the beneficiation methods are known,” Halkoaho said to Helsingin Sanomat in July.
Equally lofty expectations have been vested in Kiviniemi, a scandium deposit discovered in Rautalampi, Eastern Finland, in 2014. The deposit is estimated to hold up to €34 billion worth of scandium, which – as the lightest of the transition metals – has garnered interest as a means to improve fuel efficiency in the aviation and transport industry.
“When it comes to scandium, it all depends on how the methods can be improved,” reminded Halkoaho.
De-commissioned mines offer potential also to smaller operators
Finland, he added, also has a host of de-commissioned mines that continue offering great potential for re-development. More investments, however, will be required – preferably from international mining conglomerates – to ensure the re-development projects can overcome the possible initial hurdles.
Harry Sandström, the director of the Mining Finland programme at GTK, agrees: “What we need are risk-takers.”
He highlights that former mine sites offer business opportunities also to smaller operators, as the tailings typically contain valuable minerals the exploitation of which may be financially feasible for operators with various capital structures.
Due to the risks associated with mineral exploration and exploitation, as well as the vast resources and long-term commitment consequently demanded of mining industry operators, one factor emerges as particularly important: the predictability of legislation.
“It may be lax or strict, as long as it’s predictable. That’s the most important factor,” tells Sandström.
He identifies environmental regulations, political stability, labour supply, public attitudes, and the reliability of energy and road transport infrastructures as additional factors weighing in on the decisions of the operators.
“Finland fares well in all the aspects listed; in some of them, excellently.”
“We also have a strong mining cluster with operational mines and unusually strong mining technology expertise. Our education and support systems are similarly strong. And we have the space to operate. This is a sparsely populated country, where you won’t run out of space,” adds Sandström.
“We have the critical mass, we have the expertise and we have the understanding. But first and foremost, we have the mineral potential,” he summarises.
Booming interest in battery metals
That potential is not limited to copper, iron, nickel or any of the other mineral commodities traditionally associated with the mining industry of Finland. The country is also experiencing a major boom related to the so-called battery metals, such as cobalt and lithium, and has the largest cobalt reserves in Europe.
“Finland is also the largest producer of both gold and chromium in Europe,” says Sandström.
Agnico Eagle, a gold producer based in Canada, has revealed that it has stepped up its efforts to increase the mineral resources and production rate of its mine in Kittilä, Lapland – which is already the largest primary gold producer in Europe.