Environmental Impact of Battery Production through Mining

Environmental Impact of Battery Production through Mining

By Energy CIO Insights | Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Terrafame, a state-owned mining company has received a permit to build a battery chemicals plant on the site of Sotkamo nickel/zinc mine. Joni Lukkaroinen, CEO of Terrafame says that the main aim is to increase the value of operations. The nickel-cobalt product developed is partly sold to customers by removing impurities to battery nickel-cobalt sulphate. As the market is expanding very fast in battery applications, the company aims to be the leader in offering solutions to customers in the same arena.

An extra level of processing to remove impurities is added to the battery chemical plant which has already been undertaken at Sotkamo mine. Terrafame can produce battery-grade nickel and cobalt sulphate with the essential properties of lithium-ion battery technologies.

Lukkaroinen said that the challenge of the company is to predict the market development. Terrafame is planning to convert the whole nickel production into battery chemicals. This makes the plant the biggest nickel-sulphate production plant in the world when it’s finished. With an increase in demand for nickel and the share of nickel used in lithium-ion batteries, the Terrafame Company believes that the market is booming, and it is difficult to be successful.

The chemical plant should reduce carbon emissions though it contributes to the battery revolution, building a battery chemical plant onsite. The benefit for the company is of less need for transporting the product. By reducing the transportation, the chemicals can be produced more rather than polluting vehicles. The company ensures that the cleanest possible techniques are used while producing nickel-sulphide and cobalt-sulphide. The company’s current production is based on bioleaching technology which uses carbon footprint for producing nickel. Onsite processing should ensure that all the essential elements are extracted and utilized by reducing the wastes at the plant.

Talvaivaara Mining, which owned the Sotkamo mine since 2008, has mismanaged waste on site. Waste reservoirs overfilled due to rainwater and leaked which led to contamination of lakes nearby and converted to salt water. However, there has been no further environmental damage after Terrafame took the mine in 2015. Lukkaroinen assured that there hasn’t been any environmental change and that they have worked to build a safety culture at the site.

Furthermore, environmental safety will remain as the top priority for the site, ensuring that the battery revolution doesn’t damage the environment.        

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