1.5 billion investment in 3 factories is catapulting Finland into the status of a significant global player in the Battery industry.

Johnson Matthey, a UK-listed chemicals company, together with the Finnish Minerals Group have announced investment in a cathode materials plant planned for Vaasa.

The plant will produce cathode materials used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, which are increasingly in high demand as car manufacturers shift to electric vehicles. The plant with a nameplate capacity of 30,000 tonnes of ultra-high energy density cathode materials required by EV producers is Johnson Matthey’s second investment in Finland.

The two companies did not disclose the amount invested, but the sum is estimated to be in hundreds of millions of Euros. The city of Vaasa has offered to supply the plant with energy produced solely from renewable sources and the factory will incorporate an innovative effluent treatment solution.

The plant will be an addition to the EV battery cluster in Finland which also includes Finnish utility company Fortum and German chemicals maker BASF.

According to the CEO of Finnish Minerals Groupe Matti Hietanen, The plant will employ hundreds of people when it starts operating in 2024.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä praised the investment as proof of success for finland’s Battery Strategy, saying: “These investments, which are also important for regional economies, will undoubtedly fuel other new investments to Finland,”

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen, welcomed the good news on Finland’s battery cluster saying: “Finnish expertise and a stable investment environment support development based on the national Battery Strategy and investments to Finland,” Prime minister Sanna Marin also praised the significant investment in a Tweet.

The critical metals for the new battery materials production in Finland will be supplied by Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel, and a major producer of platinum, cobalt and copper. Nornickel has signed a term sheet with Johnson Matthey on long-term supply of the needed material.

In response to the growing European demand for high quality and responsibly sourced metals for the EV industry, earlier in April Nornickel announced plans to ramp up sustainable nickel and cobalt production at its refinery in Finland NN Harjavalta from 65 000 tons to over 100 000 tons by early 2026. Nornickel Harjavalta is mainly powered by renewable energy and is a world-class specialist in the hydrometallurgical production of high purity nickel with the most extensive nickel product portfolio in Europe. The factory meets the most stringent EU sustainability requirements and recycles over 90% of its waste delivering to the market products with one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry.

NN Harjavalta’s product range will be playing an important role in satisfying Johnson Matthey’s requirements for its precursor and cathode active materials production in Finland as well as for its existing factory in Poland.

“This expansion will further strengthen Harjavalta refinery’s position as one of the most sustainable producers of nickel and cobalt metals to the EV battery industry.” Joni Hautojärvi, Managing Director at Nornickel Harjavalta commented.

Vladimir Potanin, President, Nornickel commented: “We are delighted for this opportunity to develop our business together with Johnson Matthey — a new important player in the Finnish battery materials ecosystem — and help the company expand on the European EV market. Our memorandum should enable us to identify mutually beneficial sustainability initiatives that support the ambition of achieving the most sustainable battery materials value chain in Europe”.

Robert MacLeod, CEO, Johnson Matthey commented: “Securing the long term supply of nickel and cobalt with Nornickel is an important milestone on our journey towards developing a sustainable battery materials ecosystem and further demonstrates the progress we are making on the commercialisation of our business. With sustainability at the heart our strategy and an increasingly important requirement for our customers and consumers, we are delighted to be working with Nornickel to deliver sustainable cathode materials to the market.”

Nornickel and Johnson Matthey also intend to collaborate in other important parts of the battery materials value chain, including tokenisation of the supply chain using blockchain technology. Implementation of token-based smart contracts allows combining metal deliveries with complete provenance as well as Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) credentials including carbon footprint to ensure the unprecedented level of responsible sourcing.

Anton Berlin, Vice President, Sales and Distribution of Norilsk Nickel commented :

"An important topic for us is that we look not only at the physical metal supply itself, but also at the development of metal tokenisation. Today, apart from pure physics, confirmation of responsible sourcing - provenance - ESG characteristics, carbon footprint - are becoming important. In our view, the digital technology of tokens allows us to combine all this together. Tokens are a digital representation for metals to which you can attach additional information. The benefit is that regardless of the complexity of the value chain, reselling, this sort of information is immutable, it can't be distorted, that's the power of blockchain technology - it prevents any changes or falsification of data. As the industry evolves, it becomes more and more important how you validate this information. And that's where tokens allow you to do this quite easily, without involving third parties, without having to do large-scale audits, because often the value chains are complex, intersecting. If we look at the value chains, it's usually a lot of overlapping lines. There are suppliers of raw materials, there are companies that process recycled materials, and then all this will be combined at precursor production. Electrolyte production, membrane production, will all merge at battery cell production, which will turn into batteries, along with electronics... It's a huge layer of companies, a huge industry, a huge number of manufacturing connections. Then trying to show what my carbon footprint was at input, how much I added, how much is in my output product, you can add this manually but it would take a lot of hard work. In our opinion, the tokenisation of the value chain is really something that is in demand in today's economy, today's industry.”

Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä also commented: “The recent developments underline the importance of the new Battery Strategy in clarifying future prospects. The Strategy focuses on the availability and processing of raw materials resourced responsibly and the production and research activities related to battery materials and recycling. These investments, which are also important for regional economies, will undoubtedly fuel other new investments to Finland,”

State capitalisation to support investments has budgeted an additional funding of EUR 300 million for Finnish Minerals Group to promote investments for the production of precursor and cathode active materials used in lithium-ion batteries in Finland.

“The purpose of the capitalisation was specifically to find partners for future investments. This news on the investment shows that the decision was right,” Haatainen added.

Finnish Minerals Group is a hundred percent state owned company established in 2018 with the specific purpose of developing Finland’s mining and battery industry.

The National Battery Strategy was published in January 2021. The Strategy identifies a number of Finland’s strengths that support the success of the battery industry and electrification.