BASF puts plans for cathode material factory in Finland on hold

A new BASF plant for cathode material precursors in Harjavalta, Finland, has been put on ice after another court defeat. The pending authorisation has been dragging on for several years.

Image: BASF

After the Vaasa Administrative Court cancelled a temporary permit for the plant in February, the employees at the site are to be laid off indefinitely, according to BASF. The German company has therefore announced the start of negotiations with employee representatives in Harjavalta. “The decision to initiate these negotiations was made because of the lengthy permitting process with unclear outcomes, leading to an unpredictable timeframe for receiving a final, unappealable permit,” the company wrote. “As a result, BASF is forced to consider indefinite layoffs, potentially affecting all employees at the Harjavalta site.”

Negotiations are scheduled to begin on 15 April and will last six weeks, according to the statement. According to the company, “BASF is fully committed to managing this process responsibly and with utmost thoughtfulness towards its employees”. Information on the decisions to be made will be provided once the negotiations have been concluded.

BASF had initially announced the construction of the factory for cathode material precursors in October 2018, with a targeted start of production at the end of 2020. The plant was to be built in the neighbourhood of the refinery of the Russian mining group Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), as BASF and its partner at the time had already concluded a long-term supply agreement for nickel and cobalt from the metal refinery.

However, this schedule could not be met. “In 2020, BASF received the first permit from the relevant authorities after an extensive environmental impact assessment. Since then, we have been on a painful journey with several cycles of permits being granted, appealed, and – unfortunately – not upheld,” says Tomi Oja, Managing Director of BASF Battery Materials Finland Oy. “We are disappointed to have received different signals from authorities and the administrative courts. In a dynamic market like the battery market, which requires major investments, both speed and certainty are essential for business planning. This includes a clear legal framework.”

According to Oja, BASF continues to hope “that at some time in the future these hopes will be finally realized”. “BASF remains committed to an innovative, sustainable and competitive battery value chain in Europe. However, the overall situation makes it essential to enter into negotiations with employee representatives for our plant in Finland now after several years,” said the manager. “We greatly appreciate the commitment of the entire team in Harjavalta, who have persevered and continue to do so during this challenging period of uncertainty.”

BASF is committed to further expanding its global battery materials business to meet the growing needs of the battery industry. “The company’s plan to invest in the expansion of the battery materials business remains valid,” said BASF. However, production at the factory in Schwarzheide, Germany, where the cathode material precursors from Harjavalta are to be processed into cathode materials for the battery industry, is not jeopardised or impaired. Access to the markets has been secured through a “broadly diversified partner network”.,


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