Finland has the potential to become a major global source of the strategic battery metals required to power the new generation of electric vehicles that major car manufacturers are bringing to the market. It is estimated that by 2030, a quarter of new cars worldwide will be electric or hybrid vehicles.
Finland already produces nickel and cobalt, and lithium production is currently being expanded. According to The Geological Survey of Finland (GTK), Finland has significant resources to increase production to meet the rapidly growing demand for battery applications used in electric vehicles.
“The rich mineral deposits along with advanced battery chemicals production create a strong platform for future development and growth of battery manufacturing operations in Finland,” says Vesa Koivisto, Head of Industry, Cleantech & Bio-economy at Finpro's Invest in Finland.
Major cobalt and lithium reserves
Finland is the only major producer of cobalt in Europe apart from Russia, producing about 2500 t in 2016 which is about 3% of global production. According to GTK, the known reserves in Finland contain over 445,000 tons of cobalt which far exceeds the current annual global cobalt production and provides raw material for decades to come.
There is currently no industrial scale lithium mining in Europe. However, Finnish company Keliber Oy is planning to start battery grade lithium production in 2020 in Kaustinen, western Finland, aiming to produce 9,000 tpa lithium carbonate with 400,000 tpa ore feed. There are also other potential lithium deposits in Finland subject to further exploration.
Terraframe plans new battery chemicals plant
Finnish multi-metal company Terrafame Ltd. is aiming to become one of the largest nickel sulphate producers globally, with plans to build a new plant in Sotkamo, northern Finland, in 2020. The plant’s capacity of approximately 150,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate and 5,000 tonnes of cobalt sulphate. Terraframe has already secured USD 200 million in funding to support the investment plan from Galena Asset Management S.A., Trafigura Group Ltd., and Sampo plc. Commodities trader Trafigura already has a nickel-cobalt sulphide offtake agreement with Terraframe.
“The availability of nickel and cobalt is critical for the electric vehicles market to continue developing. As a producer of these metals, Terrafame is aiming to take a leading role in supplying battery manufacturers with high-quality chemicals to be used in this end-use segment,” said Joni Lukkaroinen, CEO of Terrafame Ltd. in a statement.
Finnish company Freeport Cobalt is currently the world’s largest cobalt chemicals producer with an annual output of some 10,000 tons, according to GTK. The company serves about 500 customers in more than 50 countries globally.
Boost for lithium-ion battery production
BASF and Nornickel announced their cooperation on the supply of raw materials for future battery materials production for lithium-ion batteries in Europe in June 2017. BASF intends to invest up to €400 million in a first step to build industry-leading production plants for cathode materials in Europe, according to the companies’ joint statement.
BASF would receive the raw materials from the Nornickel metal refinery in Harjavalta, Finland, which the companies state is uniquely suited to the vertically integrated production of battery precursor cathode materials for the European market.
In September 2017, Finnish company Valmet Automotive started manufacturing battery packs from lithium battery cells. Earlier this year, Chinese company CATL, one of the major electric vehicle battery providers globally, subscribed to new shares issued by Valmet Automotive for a 22% ownership in the company.
“In addition to its natural resources, Finland has world-class chemistry and engineering talent. The combination of all these factors with excellent sea and railway logistics connections and one of the lowest electricity prices in Europe makes Finland a superb location for battery operations,” says Koivisto.