Nornickel Harjavalta’s product range will be playing an important role in satisfying British Johnson Matthey’s requirements.

Critical metals, such as high-grade nickel, are crucial for battery production of electric vehicles. Photograph: Paul Wilkinson/Flickr

Nornickel, the Russian company, which is the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a major producer of platinum, cobalt and copper, has signed an agreement with British chemical company Johnson Matthey (JM) on long-term supply of critical metals for their battery materials production in Finland.  

Earlier in April, Nornickel announced plans to increase sustainable nickel and cobalt production at its refinery in Finland, Nornickel Harjavalta, located in Western Finland, in response to the growing European demand for high quality and responsibly sourced metals for the electric vehicles industry.  

In practice, the nickel output in Harjavalta during the first phase of the expansion will increase from the current 65,000 tons to 75,000 tons in 2023 and during the second phase to over 100,000 tons by early 2026. While ramping up the output, the plant also expects to produce at least 40,000 tons of nickel sulfate solution. Enough for the electric cars industry to produce one million electric vehicles a year.

Nornickel 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.  

Johnson Matthey will start building its second commercial plant in Finland with a nameplate capacity of 30,000 tons of ultra-high energy density cathode materials required by electric vehicle producers. The factory, which will be located in Vaasa, the largest city of the Ostrobothnia region, will be powered solely by renewable energy and incorporate an innovative effluent treatment solution.  The construction is expected to start this year.

“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 commercialization of our business,” Robert MacLeod, CEO of Johnson Matthey, said in a statement. “With sustainability at the heart of 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.”

Vladimir Potanin, president of Nornickel, said that the company is delighted to develop business together with Johnson Matthey, which he called “a new important player in the Finnish battery materials ecosystem.”

Nornickel and Johnson Matthey have also signed a memorandum of understanding to explore options to further extend metal supply in the future. The parties also intend to collaborate in other important parts of the battery materials value chain, including new metal dissolution technology, circular economy opportunities and tokenization of the supply chain using blockchain technology.  

“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,” Potanin said.

The Finnish Minerals Group is also planning to invest in the development of selected auxiliary processes required in the production of battery materials. The development work is closely related to Johnson Matthey’s plan to establish the production facility in Vaasa. The amount of the investment is not yet revealed.  

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (the SDP) shared a news release on Twitter of the actively developing battery cluster in Finland.

“Excellent news for Finland and Vaasa!” Prime Minister Marin exclaimed.