Keliber's long-planned lithium project is progressing into the construction phase, as preparatory work on the lot of the lithium hydroxide refinery will be kicked off still before Christmas. The refinery will be built in Kokkola Industrial Park (KIP), and it will produce lithium hydroxide, which is needed in electric vehicle batteries, among other uses.
“Starting the construction of the refinery is a significant milestone in Keliber's lithium project, which is now proceeding into the implementation phase. The schedule allows us to ramp up production in 2025, which is good news for the Finnish battery cluster as well as for the whole Kokkola region, where the project means job opportunities and increased vitality”, says CEO Hannu Hautala.
The capital expenditure of the Keliber project is estimated to be EUR 588 million. The project is based on integrated production: in addition to the lithium hydroxide refinery, the project plan includes a concentrator plant at a distance of 66 kilometres, on the border of the municipalities of Kaustinen and Kronoby, and mining sites. Construction of the concentrator and the near-by Rapasaari mine will be started once their environmental permits have been granted.
The construction phase is estimated to employ up to 500 people, approximately half of them at the site of the lithium hydroxide refinery. Once production has reached the steady stage, Keliber will employ directly and through contractors approximately 300 people.
“The construction start will speed up our direct recruitments as well those of our partners. We are in the process of finalising large technology contracts, and we will continue detailed planning and tendering”, says Hannu Hautala.
Energy and material efficiency as a strength at the refinery
The lithium hydroxide refinery will consist of several buildings, with a total area of more than 20,000 square metres. The construction phase will start with preparatory work on the lot, such as fencing the area, followed by earthworks, after which the production building foundations will be constructed.
Keliber’s lithium hydroxide production is based on soda leaching technology, which benefits from material and energy efficiency. Energy sources will be steam, natural gas and electricity, which contributes to Keliber’s relatively low CO2 emissions in comparison with current lithium hydroxide production chains. Circulated process water will account for about 80 per cent of the refinery's total process water consumption. The side stream created in the process, analcime sand, can be used in construction, primarily in the expansion of the Kokkola harbour.
“Our location in Kokkola Industrial Park supports our sustainability targets, as KIP is known as the pioneer of the circular economy in Finland. High-quality infrastructure and service offering combined with good traffic connections contribute to efficient material and energy flows”, says Sami Heikkinen, Manager of the lithium hydroxide refinery.
The planned annual production of the lithium hydroxide refinery is 15,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide monohydrate. Its main raw material is spodumene concentrate, which Keliber will produce from its own ore. However, during the ramp-up period Keliber is planning to rely on purchased spodumene concentrate from outside suppliers, because the concentrator plant will be built later than the lithium hydroxide refinery.
Keliber aims to be the first company in Europe to start the production of lithium hydroxide from own ore, which is still possible within the current time frame. In any case, the unique Keliber project is securing European access to lithium, which is an indispensable raw material in the green transition.