HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's Terrafame nickel mine is planning to start producing material for electric vehicle batteries by 2020, the company said on Friday.
The mine, formerly known as Talvivaara, has been under government control since 2015 after years of losses and production problems. It returned to profit last year and commodities trader Trafigura agreed in February to take a stake and help to ramp up production.
Terrafame said it plans to build a new chemical plant by 2020, which would convert nickel into a valuable form of sulfate, a powder-like substance particularly suited for use in batteries.
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Most electric vehicles rely on lithium-ion batteries, with the main component comprised mostly of nickel
Lithium batteries, which keep a charge over longer distances, are being installed in electric cars from Tesla’s top-of-the-line Model X to General Motors' more modestly priced Chevy Bolt.
"The availability of nickel and cobalt is critical for the electric vehicles market to continue developing. As a producer of these metals, Terrafame is aiming to take a leading role in supplying battery manufacturers," Terrafame CEO Joni Lukkaroinen said in a statement.
The new plant would have annual capacity of about 150,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate, which Terrafame said would make it one of the largest producers globally.
The company said it expects to make a final decision on the investment in the first half of 2018.
(Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by David Goodman)