After the world economics started to suffer from the financial crises in the US in 2008, it felt like all new investments ended in Northern Finland. The trend continued until autumn 2016, when we recognized clear growth in our services and willingness of companies to participate in RD projects. Now the number of investments has grown fast. It is on a level that has not been seen since the hydropower stations and main roads were built from 1950’s to early 1970’s.

In mining industries, several investments are going on. Agnico Eagle has a 160 million € investment going on in their Kittilä gold mine. They are building a 1044 m deep shaft. At the same time, the processing plant’s processing capacity will be raised from the current 1.6 million tonnes per annum to 2.0 million tonnes per annum. Outokumpu Chrome has in their Kemi mine an ongoing project called Deep Mine. The new production level will be built in 1000 m depth while the recent one is in 500 m. The project has been started in 2017 and will be ready in 2020. Terrafame nickel mine in Sotkamo is planning to invest in nickel and cobalt chemical production. Both are needed in accumulator production. Plan is to produce 150 000 tons nickel sulphate and 5000 tons cobalt sulphate.

Closed mines opened and new permits being audited

Laiva gold mine in Raahe was closed some years ago. Now it has been opened again by Firesteel Resources.
Pahtavaara gold mine in Sodankylä was closed some years ago. Rupert Resources bought it in 2016. They are exploring the site and aim to open it again. In addition, Hannukainen Mining – owned by Tapojärvi - is planning an iron ore mine in Kolari. Also some copper and gold will be produced. At the moment the environmental permit is being audited by authorities. Boreal Bioref has for some years been planning a pulp and bio product factory in Kemijärvi in Eastern Lapland. At the moment environmental and water permits are being audited by authorities. The goal is to start investment in very near future.

Renewing start-ups in planning

Metsä Fibre has started a feasibility study on renewing their Kemi pulp mill. There are two options: to replace the existing one with new; or lengthen the lifetime of the existing one with the help of modernising the mill. If a new mill will be built, the capacity will grow, more electricity will be produced and the bio product variety will grow. Kaidi Finland is planning a bio refinery in Kemi. Goal is to produce 225 000 tons of biofuel: 75% diesel and 25% gasoline. Company has already got its environmental permit approved. Investment would be 900 million €. In addition, some bio and recycle material based power stations are planned. E.g. Oulun Energia are building a new 215 MW bio power station. Work has been started and the power station will be in production in November 2020.

The investments under construction or having final decision make together almost 1 000 million €. Those in planning phase will make 3 000 million € if they all will be built in the planned scale. For companies serving mining and process industries this is a huge market both in the construction phase and after they have started production. It also means that our SMEs have to develop their own activities, products and processes as well as invest in cooperation and servitization.
Another critical topic will be the demand of qualified personnel. The lack can be to some degree covered by training and educating personnel in cooperation. On long run, we should all together make sure that young people take advantage of the opportunities and study engineering.

Seppo Saari

Lapland University of Applied Science
Head of R&D, Industry and natural resources

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