Keliber lithium project aims to produce lithium hydroxide from own ore
Hidden deep in the bedrock of Central Ostrobothnia lies a massive lithium treasure. In the midst of electrification and the lithium battery market’s fast growth, Keliber, a subsidiary of Sibanye-Stillwater, has now the momentum to use the region’s large lithium deposits after a long preparation period. Keliber is planning to start mining, minerals processing, and production of lithium hydroxide (LiOH) in the region in 2025, offering a workplace directly and through contractors to about 300 people.
“We aim to be the first project in Europe to start the sustainable production of battery-grade LiOH using our own ore. The LiOH will mainly be used in the manufacture of batteries for the electrifying transport”, says Hannu Hautala, CEO of Keliber.
As the use of electric cars increases, Europe needs to become more self-sufficient in critical raw materials, lithium included. While the annual demand for LiOH was about 14,000 tonnes in Europe a few years back, in 2030 it will be around 200–300 thousand tonnes.
“By producing 15,000 tonnes of LiOH annually, Keliber enables more than 300,000 passenger cars to travel carbon-free every year. In the future, we plan to increase our production capacity even more.”
Keliber plans to build five mining units and a concentrator plant in Kaustinen and Kokkola as well as a LiOH refinery in the Kokkola Industrial Park (KIP). The construction of the lithium refinery begins in Q1 2023. The company’s carbon footprint will be among the smallest in the lithium chemicals industry.
“According to research, our energy and emission intensities will be significantly lower than they usually are in our field. This is thanks to our integrated production process, use of LNG as fuel, and the 87 percent CO2 neutral Finnish electricity grid”, states Hautala.
Developing circular economy solutions has been an important part of the project. Keliber is engaging in R&D projects with, for example, educational institutions to find ways to utilise side streams.
“Our side streams will be waste rock from mining, tailings from minerals processing, and analcime sand from LiOH production. The goal is to utilise all of them. One of the biggest possibilities is the use of analcime sand in the expansion of the port of Kokkola.”