Terrafame Group to launch two new EU-funded research projects 9.1.2018 13:00

  • The budget of the international research projects totals EUR 17 million
  • Approximately EUR 5 million of EU research funding granted to Finnish companies
  • The research projects continue the work of the ending Ariel project to develop the production process and material cycles of Terrafame and other similar processes

Terrafame Group Ltd. announced today on 9 January 2018 at a water seminar organised by the University of Oulu that it will launch two new research projects in 2018 funded by the European Commission, with a total budget of EUR 17 million. The projects, called SO4Control and NEMO, will continue developing the concepts resulting from project Ariel which was led by Terrafame Group and was completed at the end of 2017.

In 2015, the state-owner gave Terrafame Ltd.’s parent company Terrafame Group Ltd. a mandate to launch a water management development and pilot project named Ariel. The goal of the project was to support Terrafame in sulphate management, a considerable challenge at the time.

Three main concepts to develop Terrafame’s production process and control sulphate levels were identified in project Ariel, launched in November 2015:

  1. A process optimisation concept where sulphate levels could be reduced by improving membrane purification, among others. Improved chemical efficiency would also generate cost savings. The procedures included in the concept would not require significant investments in the Terrafame process or new permits. Measures to optimise water management have already been taken as part of Terrafame’s operational development projects.
  2. A recycling concept where the sulphate would be returned to the production process to replace current chemicals. This option has included developing the biological and electrochemical treatment of sulphate. Both options would generate products that can be used to partially replace the chemicals used in the production process. Of these options, a recycling concept based on biological treatment has been taken to a pilot phase. The concept would require, for example, an investment into a bioreactor as well as additions to the environmental permit.
  3. A recovery concept where sulphates could be recovered, for example, as fertiliser raw materials. This option would require replacing the lye used in bioleaching with an alternative alkali. Implementing the sulphate recovery concept would require significant changes to the current production process, major investments and an extensive environmental permitting process.

Each of these options would require different levels of investments into Terrafame’s production process. The development of the conceptual solutions described above and investigation of their feasibility will continue in two EU-funded projects starting in 2018.

“The Ariel project has created a solid base for further development of Terrafame’s production and environmental technology. The EU projects beginning in 2018 are a natural and very important continuation of the work that has been done. The projects are a significant investment on EU’s part, signalling that the development work carried out by the Terrafame Group is aligned with EU’s raw materials policy,” says chair of the Ariel project’s steering group Päivi Kinnunen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The follow-up projects will provide Finnish companies with significant amounts of new EU funding.

“The EU-funded research projects launched in 2018 will bring in approximately EUR 5 million in funding for Finnish companies of different sizes. In addition, European partners will develop solutions with a budget totalling over EUR 10 million in projects coordinated by Finnish instances,” says Chief Research Officer of Terrafame Group Ltd. Jani Kiuru.

Several solutions have been created during the Ariel project for which patents have been applied. The solutions provide not only development opportunities for Terrafame’s R&D but also for other production processes involving large quantities of water.

“Increasing the significance of the two follow-up projects now being launched is also their wide applicability and global scale. In other words, they are not solely about developing the Terrafame production process. We are very pleased to take part in developing economically and environmentally sustainable solutions that can be implemented by other companies and instances as well,” Kiuru says.

Two projects launched during 2018


The first of the new projects, SO4Control project funded by EIT RawMaterials, will commence in the spring of 2018. It is a three-year project with a funding of EUR 2 million secured.

The SO4Control project continues to research and develop the sulphate recycling concept commenced in the Ariel project. It will expand an economically viable solution for treating sulphate containing mining effluents with the help of a bioreactor to a larger scale.

The SO4Control project also aims to generate by-products from sulphate containing effluents for commercial use. The project will also include the development of bioleaching and membrane technologies.

The SO4Control project involves partners from Finland, Sweden and Germany.


The four-year NEMO project was accepted into EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme at the end of 2017, and it has a total budget of EUR 15 million. EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme is the world’s largest research and innovation funding programme, with a budget of nearly EUR 80 billion in 2014–2020. The NEMO project is coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Contract negotiations between partners in the NEMO project are currently in progress, and the project will commence upon signing the agreement in the spring of 2018 at the earliest. The project will involve up to 15 European instances. In addition to Terrafame, the project will include developing one other European mine.

The most important goals of the NEMO project from Terrafame’s perspective include optimising the bioleaching process, improving the efficiency of the metals production plant with regards to e.g. chemical efficiency and the quality of end products, piloting of the recovery of rare earth metals, and research into the recovery of other metals, such as manganese and magnesium.

“The EU-funded NEMO project is a significant long-term investment into developing Terrafame’s production technology and new business opportunities. The project is also aimed at securing the availability of raw materials critical to European security of supply. If successful, the project opens up opportunities for Terrafame to produce significant quantities of current and new products from the mining effluents that are currently not being utilised. This, in turn, would reduce Europe’s reliance on the import of critical raw materials,” says CEO of Terrafame Group Ltd. Matti Hietanen.

Background information on the Ariel project

The Ariel project began in November 2015. At the time, approximately 10 million cubic metres of water was stored at the mine site. The project’s primary objective was to find solutions to existing challenges in water treatment. Another objective was the applicability of the new technology elsewhere as well, including the export market. The economic feasibility of the new solutions was also included as a goal: seeing the costs of water treatment as an opportunity, utilising the effluents of Terrafame’s leaching cycle, and optimising the technical and economic aspects of the process.

As Terrafame’s water situation improved significantly during 2016 and 2017, the project was also directed towards developing and supporting operations. Due to the positive results of the ramp-up of the Terrafame mine, the amount of water stored at the mine site has stabilised at the target level of 1–3 million cubic metres. 10,467 tonnes of sulphate was discharged from the site in 2017, with the environmental permit setting the annual quota at 16,300 tonnes.

Further information:
Jani Kiuru, Chief of Research of Terrafame Group Ltd., tel. +358 40 823 8471
Matti Hietanen, CEO of Terrafame Group Ltd., tel. +358 40 823 8806


About Terrafame Group
Terrafame Group Ltd. is a special-purpose company wholly owned by the State of Finland. It is responsible for managing the state ownership and exercising the owner's power at Terrafame Ltd. Terrafame Group's role is to secure private supplementary financing and support the stabilisation and development of the mining company's operations. Terrafame Group is also responsible for helping the development of new technological solutions related to mine water purification.

About Terrafame
Terrafame Ltd. is a Finnish multi-metal company producing nickel, zinc, cobalt and copper at its mine and metals production plant located in Sotkamo. Our aim is to conduct environmentally sustainable, safe and profitable operations.

Article subjects: