HELSINKI, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Hoping to become a European hub for electric car battery production, the Finnish government and mining sector believe the relevant metal ore reserves and technological knowhow will convince Asian investors.
Of the key metals for the batteries, nickel and cobalt are already being mined and processed in Finland, and the first lithium mine in the European Union (EU) is expected to open in Finland in 2019.
This autumn the construction of a plant producing battery chemicals started in the Terrafame nickel mines in Sotkamo, northeastern Finland. When completed in 2021, it is to produce 170,000 tons of nickel sulfate annually, estimated by newspaper Helsingin Sanomat to be sufficient for a million car batteries, and cobalt sulfate matching 300,000 batteries.
In lithium production, partially state owned Keliber company announced this week the start of a test program to produce lithium hydroxide, increasingly preferred by battery producers.
Lauri Ratia, chairman of the state majority owned Terrafame mining company, on Saturday highlighted confidence in proving that Finland is "a stable and predictable environment" for car battery manufacturing.
Talking to newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, he admitted that competition is hard though.
Matti Hietanen, CEO of the fully state owned company Finnish Ore Processing, which controls the government holdings in mining, said recently Finland needs Asian companions.
"Asian manufacturers dominate and they have projects elsewhere in Europe. Our unique raw material reserves and sustainable production give us a good basis for talks with the Asians," he said on national radio Yle.
RISK REHAB EFFORT
The battery industry hype in Finland is partially a spinn-off of a mining industry disaster and a rescue operation that could have ended with a failure and futile spending of public money.
In 2015 the original operator of the Talvivaara nickel mines went bankrupt, following a major environmental disaster due to problems encountered in its biodissolving based nickel and zinc production.
As the cleanup of the vast contaminated areas, including waterways, would have been a public expense anyway, the Finnish government took the risk of a second attempt. An initially wholly government owned mining company, Terrafame took over the site and operations.
This autumn, while the trial of the environmental crimes against the executives of Talvivaara mining company was still in the news, Terrafame attained profit and full production. Problems in the biodissolving process have been overcome.
The state ownership of Terrafame has since gone down to 69 percent. The largest private investor is Singapore based Trafigura. Under current rules, the state ownership cannot go under 50.1 percent. At a later stage Terrafame can become publically listed.