British chemical company Johnson Matthey has announced the construction of a new factory for the production of its nickel-rich eLNO cathode materials. This will be built as part of a strategic partnership with Finnish Minerals Group (FMG) in Finland.
Construction of the new plant, which will be designed for an annual output of 30,000 tonnes of cathode material, is expected to begin later this year. The plant will complement production in Konin, central Poland, where Johnson Matthey also announced the construction of a cathode materials manufacturing facility in 2019. In parallel with the announcement of the plant construction in Vaasa, Finland, the chemical group is also making public that it has signed contracts for the long-term supply of raw materials for the production of battery materials with Nornickel and SQM.
“The developments with Nornickel and SQM, in conjunction with the investment by Finnish Minerals Group, form an important part of the sustainable supply chain for our cathode materials plants in both Finland and Poland,” Johnson Matthey wrote. The partnership with the Finnish Minerals Group serves primarily to further develop the Finnish battery ecosystem. Finnish Minerals Group manages the Finnish state’s interests in the mining industry and aims to create an integrated value chain for electric vehicle batteries in Finland.
However, Finnish Minerals Group will also provide very concrete support to the British company in the construction of the plant on Finland’s west coast in two key areas. Firstly, to implement an integrated solution for the treatment of sodium sulphate, a common by-product in production, and secondly, to invest in technology for the pre-treatment of nickel and cobalt sulphates to adapt the materials to the requirements of cathode materials with high nickel content.
The site will use only locally generated renewable energy, according to Johnson Matthey. It also says it is working with the city of Vaasa “to develop a sustainable heat recovery solution to feed the local heating network”.
As suppliers, Johnson Matthey also announces with today’s announcement Nornickel to supply nickel and cobalt, and SQM for lithium hydroxide. No details are known about the duration, value and volume of the order. Nornickel will supply nickel and cobalt from its metal refineries in Harjavalta, Finland (where it has just announced an increase in output to 100,000 tonnes per year by 2026) and the Kola region of Russia – for both of the British company’s plants. In addition, both groups say they will also collaborate on digitalising the supply chain, implementing a circular economy, a novel metal dissolution technology and further improving the sustainability of the value chain.
The lithium hydroxide for Johnson Matthey is extracted by SQM from the brine of the Salar de Atacama in Chile. The group is one of Chile’s largest lithium producers, and the Chinese group Tianqi has held a stake in SQM since 2018. Johnson Matthey already announced in 2019 that it had signed a ten-year contract with Nemaska Lithium, also for the purchase of lithium hydroxide for its battery cathode materials.