TERRAFAME – Powering the EV Revolution
Terrafame’s integrated approach is laying the groundwork for the switch to electric vehicles.
If there is one industry that is going to have a major impact on the transformation of the 21st century, there can be little argument that that industry will be batteries. With climate change becoming an ever-more urgent concern, and electric vehicles forming one of the major fronts in the battle against it, the name for batteries and the materials needed to produce them will only increase.
That is the front where Terrafame Ltd is working, a battery chemicals company that not only manufactures the necessary products but mines the raw materials needed to make them. Terrafame’s unique integrated production chain from its own mine to battery chemicals production is located on one industrial site in Northern Finland. “Our fully integrated production, from the mining of raw materials to the manufacture of battery chemicals means a sustainable and fully traceable production,” explains Terrafame CEO, Joni Lukkaroinen. “It also means very good control of the production quality.”
Of course, sustainability is a high priority for Terrafame’s customers. Nobody wants a green energy alternative that creates unnecessary pollution.
“Sustainability is very important for our customers in EV production and the battery production chain, so it’s important that we can offer in the sustainability area,” Lukkaroinen says. “We’re committed to a sustainable mining standard, the Finnish TSM and we are a member of the UN Global Compact. Through e.g. these tools we want to demonstrate to our customers that we are supporting them in achieving their sustainability goals with our products. What’s unique is we have the smallest carbon footprint among nickel producers globally.”
The numbers back this claim up. Terrafame’s CO2 production is roughly 60% lower than the industry average for nickel sulphate production, a critical USP for an industry about reducing the carbon load. That, combined with high-quality technical support for its customers, is making Terrafame a leader in the industry.
Integrating into the Community
But reaching that position has been a long journey. “When Terrafame was first established five years ago and we took over the site it was a challenging time,” Lukkaroinen admits. “Due to the history of the site, there were a lot of environmental concerns among the neighbours, and the turnaround we’ve achieved there is spectacular. We have been able to move from that very challenging situation to where we are today, having both production and environmental matters under control. Our neighbours’ trust in our operations and production has improved over the years. So, this turnaround has been a big challenge both in gaining the social licence as well as production challenges.”
The key to achieving that acceptance has been keeping an open dialogue with those communities, as Lukkaroinen tells us, “It’s been a lot of work of course. We have a very systematic approach to creating a dialogue with our neighbours to make sure that everything we do is done following the strictest standards. We work systematically on environmental safety to make sure we are in control of our operations and we have gained the trust of local communities.”
It also means contributing to that community, something Lukkaroinen is clearly very keen on.
“We are sponsoring the local baseball team in this part of Finland. Finnish baseball is by far the most popular sport here, and we have been one of this team’s main sponsors since the start which is important to the local community and our employees,” he points out. “The other sponsorship locally we have is on the biathlon skiing. We have the national second team of Finland practising here.”
With the support of the local community firmly in place, Terrafame now has a new task ahead of it.
“Our main focus is to ramp up the battery chemicals production. It’s a plant we’ve been building for the last couple of years and the next step is to ramp up production,” Lukkaroinen says. “We want to build ourselves a strong role in this new European EV value chain. We hope we can also contribute ourselves in the future to the whole value chain needed for the EV battery chain. Those are the two main goals.”
A Productive Environment
To achieve those goals, Terrafame needs to be continuously nurturing a new generation of talent.
“We have a good situation as the largest mining company in Finland and the largest battery chemicals producer,” Lukkaroinen says. “We attract young talent easily, particularly through universities. When it comes to most of our employees they are from the local area where there is not a long history of industrial production.”
Another factor that makes Terrafame an appealing employer is just what that local area looks like, as the company is headquartered in one of the skiing resort centres of Finland.
“It’s a beautiful place to live which helps attract people from elsewhere, but there’s not a lot of industrial history here so in order to have professional workers we have been carrying out very extensive training programmes among our employees,” Lukkaroinen points out. “We offer common practices and opportunities to practice, do summer training. We have around 100 summer trainees every summer, learning the profession. So, through close cooperation with the schooling side and our very systematic approach, we’re able to build up the skillset we need.”
The other benefit of Terrafame’s scenic environs is that it reminds its people of just what it is working for. Ultimately, Terrafame is a company that exists to promote sustainability, and as Lukkaroinen argues, European industry is uniquely placed to make a difference in that fight.
“In Europe, we have a lot of strengths we don’t always understand,” he tells us. “One of those is this long history of industrial activity and laws and regulations which naturally make us more sustainable. We have human rights, labour rights, so if customers ask if we have certificates, we will usually have them in place. But this is something Europe should be recognised for even more strongly and that gives us great strength in our attitude on sustainability. At the same time, we have a lot of raw materials in Europe that could be utilised more actively. So, we are a good example of how to make EV European production totally European. I hope in European policy-making the importance of keeping these raw materials in our own value chain is recognised.”