Alongside lithium, cobalt and manganese, nickel is an important component of electric car batteries. A single Tesla car reportedly contains 63 kilograms of nickel.
Therefore, the hopes for many nickel producers are high after many difficult years. With the Philippines, Russia, Canada, Australia and Indonesia being the world's leading nations in nickel production, the largest deposits of nickel in non-Russian Europe are found in Finland. After the Philippines and Indonesia shattered the global nickel market by closing down nickel mines or restricting exports, a window of opportunity has been opened for other actors.
In Finland, nickel is produced in Terrafame's mine in Sotkamo, which has been run by new owners from Singapore after a series of industrial accidents and claims of bankruptcy. The company's CEO Joni Lukkaroinen sees a good market niche in producing nickel solely for car batteries. So far, however, a superior part of the mined nickel goes to the production of stainless steel.
"Today, about 70 percent of global nickel production is used for the production of stainless steel. The demand, however, is increasing. Approximately 5 percent of the nickel is currently being used for car batteries, but according to market analysts, this figure can rise to 20 percent within ten years. Apart from the higher demand, the increase is being attributed to a rising amount of nickel being used in batteries," Joni Lukkaroinen told the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet.
According to Lukkaroinen, the country's trump cards are reliability, good infrastructure and control over distribution chains.
Another thing that could potentially play in Finland's hands is Tesla's plans to build a giant battery factory in Europe, and the city of Vaasa in the Finnish province of Ostrobothnia has been named as a possible alternative, given the proximity of raw materials, such as nickel, cobalt and lithium.
In Russia, nickel is mined in the Norilsk area near the Yenisei River and on the Kola Peninsula. Nornickel, one of the world's biggest producers, also owns the Harjavalta smelter in Western Finland.