ELECTRIFYING THE EUROPEAN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

We jumped into Timo Keränen’s (on the left) electric vehicle at Paikallis-Sähkö’s office in Kajaani, and after a good half hour’s drive, we saw an impressive sight opening up in the middle of Eastern Finland’s terrain of slow and wide hills. Terrafame’s mining and factory area is vast but fits into the landscape. The excavated and processed stone material is shaped into smooth and harmonious earthwork.

Arriving at the gate, we are delighted to find EV charging stations. Guests and their cars are well taken care of here. At the gate, every visitor is offered a pocket-sized safety guide full of concise information.

Terrafame is a major company in the chemical industry – the company’s mining operations employ approximately two hundred people, and processing that delivers added value employs another six hundred. The company’s annual capacity is 170,000 tons of nickel sulfate, 100,000 tons of zinc sulfide, 7,400 tons of cobalt sulfate, and 115,000 tons of ammonium sulfate. The product range will increase with uranium in 2024. Terrafame achieved a total turnover of 584 million euros in 2022.

A quick leap to world class

In just over five years, Terrafame has become Europe’s leading battery chemical factory. The raw materials of the factory derive from its own mining and metal production. Terrafame uses an energy-efficient bioleaching process to separate the metals from the mined aggregate. They are converted to metal semi-products at the metal factory. At the battery chemical factory, they are processed into cobalt and nickel sulfate, which are battery chemicals for electrified traffic.

Joni Lukkaroinen (on the right) has been CEO of Terrafame since 2016. Earlier this year, he visited France, where he witnessed the opening of the new European ACC battery factory. There, battery chemicals from Kainuu end up under the hood of Citroën, Peugeot, Opel, Fiat, and a few other well-known car brands. But how did Terrafame become a world-class producer of battery chemicals?

– In 2017, we made evaluations about which strategic direction to choose to increase the added value of our production, and we chose battery chemicals. Our competitiveness is based on our chemicals being responsibly produced and clean. The carbon footprint of Terrafame’s battery chemicals is the lowest in the industry, up to 60 percent lower than the average footprint of competing products, Joni Lukkaroinen states.

Long-term partnerships for growth

Heavy stone trucks have always been part of mining. Terrafame has 15 of them and electrifying them is not yet possible. However, the development of stone trucks is progressing rapidly, and they are also moving towards a carbon dioxide-free future.

The fossil fuels used in cars and vans in the industrial area will also be replaced in the future with electric and fossil-free fuel solutions – in addition to other measures to reduce emissions.

– Our goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2039, Lukkaroinen emphasizes.

Therefore, the company also requires its partners to actively work to reduce their carbon footprint. Paikallis-Sähkö has been involved in electrification contracts and repairs in Terrafame and the industrial area for more than ten years.

– The energy transition is strongly visible in the electricity sector – reducing the carbon footprint is one of our key tasks. We help our customers improve their energy efficiency and promote the spread of new solutions. We install a lot of charging stations for electric cars as well as solar panels. In our daily work, we follow the same principles, and we are in the process of changing the fleet of service vehicles to electric vans, Paikallis-Sähkö’s Managing Director Timo Keränenasserts.

Paikallis-Sähkö works in the mining and factory area in various electrification and infrastructure projects as well as electrical repairs and maintenance tasks. The level of requirements is high, and it is also not unusual to operate, for example, under the supervision of the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

– This is where our versatile experience proves its worth. We have been the electrification partner of the industrial area since 2010. We know the safety requirements and therefore we are able to offer a wide range of services up to the heaviest series of electrical works. I would also like to emphasise that our electricians value Terrafame’s professionally demanding tasks. These jobs have their own special flair, Timo Keränen smiles.

Safety is part of professional work

Joni Lukkaroinen and Timo Keränen talk at length about the importance of safety. According to them, high-quality work and professionalism naturally include independent monitoring of safety. Reducing accident frequency figures is a common goal.

– We place a lot of emphasis on that each employee takes responsibility personally. Everybody must take action when noticing a lack of security, confirms Timo Keränen.

– Safety is one of the most important targets for continuous improvement. Everything is aimed at ensuring that the operational reliability of the plant is always maximal. We want the process machinery to work without interruptions so that we can fulfill the promises we make to our customers. In addition to our own maintenance, we need reliable partners, Joni Lukkaroinen sums up.

On the way out, we look at the landscape of the area again. This is where European cars source their pure power. Past us drives a van with a determined-looking Paikallis-Sähkö service team. They have got another assignment to do.

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