The start-up of the Terrafame mine progressed according to plan in 2015 16.2.2016

Terrafame Ltd. achieved its central targets in 2015 after the company’s operations began in mid-August, 2015. Terrafame Ltd. began the start-up of the Sotkamo mine after the company acquired the business and assets of Talvivaara Sotkamo Ltd. from the bankruptcy estate of Talvivaara Sotkamo Ltd.

Terrafame’s main objective is to continue the mining operations in Sotkamo in an environmentally sustainable and financially profitable way. The company has set clear targets for the start-up of the mine particularly with regards to production as well as improving environmental and work safety.

Production targets were met

For a successful start-up of the mine, it was essential to begin ore mining in the autumn quickly to be able to begin bioleaching as planned. The set target was to transfer four million tonnes of quality ore to the bioleaching heaps by the end of 2015.

“We began mining at the start of September 2015. The first leaching comb was completed for irrigation on September 10, and the entire first heap was completed as planned. By the end of 2015, we had transferred altogether 4.1 tonnes of ore to the primary heaps. We achieved the set target on schedule,” says Lauri Ratia, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Terrafame Ltd.

Bioleaching, which is essential for efficient metal production, is also working as planned. “The leaching results of the heaps exceeded the best results of the earlier years of the mine after about four months of leaching,” continues Ratia.

The commercial deliveries of the mine’s main products, nickel and zinc, began as planned. In the initial phase of the metal production, it must be confirmed that the solution contains a sufficiently high level of metal in order to ensure the economic efficiency of the process. This is why relatively low amounts of end products were produced during autumn 2015.

With tight control over expenses, the start-up of operations proceeded according to the planned budget during the first operating year.

140 new employees during autumn 2015

Terrafame employed more than 550 people at the end of the year. In addition, Terrafame’s partners employ about 250 people at the mine on a regular basis.

“We are very happy to be able to say that we have been able to recruit the needed professionals for the up-start of the mine. During autumn 2015, we hired around 140 new employees and clerical staff, of which most are from Kainuu, to the mine,” Ratia continues.

Work safety is improving

In addition to achieving production and financial targets, significant improvements were made to work and environmental safety.

Terrafame aims to decrease the lost time injury frequency (accidents resulting in absence per million working hours) to level 7 by the end of 2016. At the beginning of 2015, the figure was 26.3.

“Workplace safety at Terrafame has improved during the entire duration of its operations, and we have invested significantly into increasing the personnel’s safety awareness. We have renewed procedures regarding work safety and have in many ways advanced the use of good practices in all our operations,” says Ratia.

Significant improvements in environmental safety

Regarding environmental safety, Terrafame’s most important targets concern water control. The target is to gain control of the water situation sustainably and to move onto a pre-emptive method in controlling environmental matters. A key milestone was reached in November 2015 when the discharge pipe from the mining area to Lake Nuasjärvi was put in operation.

However, the water situation at the mine continues to be highly challenging as the Vaasa Administrative Court (VAC) limited the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe’s sulphate load to 1,000 tonnes per month with its interim decision, in practice halving the discharge pipe’s sulphate load compared with the permit of the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency.

“VAC’s interim decision has meant that it has been possible to lead only half of the planned amount of water through the discharge pipe. As a result, the water level at the mine rose somewhat by the end of the year, despite the additional water discharges done in December. For the water situation and the mine’s future, it is vital to soon get VAC’s final decision which will enable continuing the mining and operations at the mine as planned,” says Ratia.

The quality of the purified water led through the discharge pipe is constantly monitored with tests, samples and field examinations done both at the mine and at Lake Nuasjärvi.

“Based on the test results by Terrafame as well as outside experts, the water led through the discharge pipe has complied with the permit regulations in terms of the level of sulphate and has been clearly better than the permit regulations in terms of the level of metals,” Ratia concludes.

 

Further information and interview requests:
Terrafame Ltd., Chairman of the Board Lauri Ratia, lauri.ratia@terrafame.fi

Terrafame Ltd. is a Finnish mining company producing primarily nickel and zinc by bioheapleaching at its mine located in Sotkamo. The aim is environmentally sustainable, safe and economically viable mining operations. Terrafame is owned by Terrafame Group Ltd., which is wholly owned by the State of Finland.

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