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INTERVIEW: Joni Lukkaroinen, CEO, Terrafame

A Finnish multi-metal company whose operations are heavily focused on nickel production, Terrafame is preparing to strongly position itself within nickel’s future supply chain.

Joni Lukkaroinen

With an eye on the EV future, Terrafame – holding one of Europe’s largest deposits of nickel and cobalt – will be presenting its new project at the upcoming 6th International Nickel Conference on May 31st in Toronto. CEO Joni Lukkaroinen will provide insight on how Terrafame will supply the future EV market with nickel and cobalt sulphate, whilst keeping in line with their integral commitment to environmental sustainability and responsibly developed value chains.

Metal Bulletin Events (MBE): At our conference you will be speaking about Terrafame’s plan for the further processing of its nickel and cobalt products. Could you give us a bit of insight into how these developments will take place and when you expect to enter into full production?

Joni Lukkaroinen (JL): Terrafame is currently producing Mixed Sulphide Precipitates (MSP) with a capacity of 37 000 tpa nickel contained. Our aim is to further process the full mine output to nickel and cobalt sulphates.
We have completed the project feasibility study on a chemicals production plant and are now continuing with the detailed engineering. We estimate that the new plant, with a capacity of 170,000 tpa of nickel sulphate and 7,400 tpa of cobalt sulphate, will be commissioned in the second half of 2020. By further processing our nickel-cobalt into sulphates, we are targeting the EV market, based on our low carbon footprint bioleaching technology.

MBE: What is your take on overall EV predictions and trends? Should the market be concerned about a future supply shortage of class 1 nickel?

JL: Nickel-containing cathode materials are gaining in market share, and the average size of batteries is increasing. These factors mean fast growth in nickel demand for the manufacture of EV batteries. In next ten years, demand will be up to ten times higher than today.
Terrafame has one of the largest European deposits of nickel and cobalt, which is estimated to last for decades. We began the ramp-up of our Sotkamo mine in September 2015 and expect to be in full production in 2019. During Q1 2018, we produced 6,421 tonnes of nickel contained, which was 34% more than the year before.
The current nickel price of less than 15,000 USD/t is insufficient to attract new investments. In my view, new investments will be initiated when nickel prices rise above 20 000 USD/t.

MBE: How do you expect the predicted split between class 1 and class 2 to affect the nickel supply chain?

JL: The pipeline for new primary class 1 producers looks empty, and the market will need a sustainable mechanism in order to accommodate the necessity of pricing class 1 nickel differently to meet future demand. Using class 1 to replace class 2 is always possible, at a cost. However, we do not see a competitive solution for increasing the usage of class 2 as a replacement for class 1 sources of nickel in nickel sulphate production.

MBE: During your time in the nickel industry, what lessons have you learnt that you can share?

JL: Sustainable operations are extremely important to our customers and other stakeholders. In Terrafame, we have placed a great deal of emphasis on developing these issues. Furthermore, in Finland we have strict but clear mining and environmental legislation as well as advanced labour legislation. Finland is also a politically stable country with an excellent infrastructure and a large metals processing industry.
I believe the future will belong to responsibly developed value chains, in sectors ranging from mining to EV manufacturing.

MBE: What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming conference?

JL: This year’s International Nickel Conference is particularly important to us, as we will be presenting our plans for nickel and cobalt sulphate production. I look forward to meeting people who share our passion for a sustainable supply chain for passenger vehicle electrification, as well as meeting potential customers and experts related to the nickel industry.

Published: 21 May 2018
This content is provided by Fastmarkets MB Events for informational purposes only, and it reflects the market and industry conditions and presenter’s opinions and affiliations available at the time of the presentation.