Terrafame is to build a battery chemicals plant in Sotkamo, Finland, after finding the €240 million ($273 million) it needs to build the nickel-cobalt facility.
Terrafame, which took over the zinc-nickel-cobalt mine following the bankruptcy of former owner Talvivaara, said it intends to have the plant completed at the end of 2020 and commercial production started in 2021. Back in July, the company received permitting permission for the plant.
“The intention of the investment is the further processing of Terrafame’s current main product nickel-cobalt sulphide into nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate, used in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries,” Terrafame said.
The production capacity of the battery chemicals plant will be 170,000 t/y of nickel sulphate and 7,400 t/y of cobalt sulphate. This amount of nickel sulphate should prove to be enough to produce around 1 million/y electric vehicle batteries, with the cobalt sulphate enough to cover around 300,000/y.
Outotec is to supply the pressure leaching technology for the battery chemicals plant, with the contract including the planning of the leaching technology area, the supply of key equipment, and installation supervision and training services.
Pressure leaching is the first of the three main phases of the battery chemicals plant. During the pressure leaching, nickel-cobalt sulphide, which is Terrafame’s current main product, is first placed in a elutriating unit, where it is mixed with the process water. The slurry is then fed into an autoclave (ie a pressure leaching reactor, with a raised pressure and temperature) to produce a metal sulphate solution. After thickening and filtration, the solution is directed for further refining and finally for the production of battery chemicals.
Outotec has been involved in Terrafame’s battery chemicals plant project since the prefeasibility study phase. Construction of the electric vehicle battery chemicals plant is due to begin in the first half of 2019, with deliveries of pressure leaching technology estimated to begin in early 2020.
A funding package of $200 million related to the financing of the plant project was agreed by Terrafame, Finnish Minerals Group (previously Terrafame Group Ltd), Galena Asset Management, Trafigura Group and Sampo plc back in November 2017. In connection with the plant’s final investment decision, the parties have agreed on an additional funding package of approximately €100 million, Terrafame said.
Matti Hietanen, CEO of Finnish Minerals Group (which currently owns 77% of Terrafame and is wholly owned by the Finnish government), said: “This is a very important investment for Terrafame and its owners as well as the whole Finnish and European electric vehicle battery manufacturing value chain. Terrafame’s investment also improves the conditions for attracting more operators in the battery manufacturing value chain to Finland.”
Mika Lintilä, the Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs, said the Finnish state was willing to do its part in advancing the development of the Finnish battery production value chain “and to take forward the necessary efforts in research & development, operating conditions of businesses as well as investments”.
This week, BASF selected Harjavalta, Finland, as the first location for a battery materials production hub serving the European automotive market.