Uranium & Fuel

Finland / Terrafame Begins Recovery Of Natural Uranium At Sotkamo Mine

By David Dalton
20 June 2024

Company says country is only one in Europe currently producing material

Terrafame Begins Recovery Of Natural Uranium At Sotkamo Mine
The Sotkamo mine in Talvivaara, where Terrafame is producing natural uranium as a by-product of zinc and nickel production. Courtesy Terrafame.

Finnish mining company Terrafame has begun recovering natural uranium as a by-product of zinc and nickel production in a step that it says makes Finland the only European Union member state that currently produces uranium.

Terrafame said the natural uranium, being produced at its Sotkamo mine in Talvivaara in the northeast of the country, will be transported abroad for further processing, after which it will be used in nuclear energy production.

France-based Orano and British-German-Dutch consortium Urenco offer uranium conversion and enrichment, but Terrafame said it is the only company carrying out actual uranium recovery – using a production process that enables the low concentration of natural uranium found in the ore to be used as a by-product.

EU countries, in particular France, have produced uranium from imported mineral or through enterprises overseas.

Terrafame said recovery had begun on 18 June 2024. Before it began, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) conducted a commissioning inspection at the uranium recovery plant and found that the plant could be commissioned safely.

After a startup phase, the recovery plant is scheduled to operate at full capacity by 2026 when the company’s uranium output will total about 200 tonnes per year.

The production capacity corresponds to approximately nine months of consumption at the new Olkiluoto-3 EPR nuclear power plant in Finland.

“The plan is to continue uranium production alongside the production of other metals throughout the operating period, which covers at least the next 30 years,” Terrafame said.

“In total, the preparations required investments of approximately €20 million [$21.4m].”

After the startup phase, the recovery of uranium will increase Terrafame's annual net sales by approximately €30m-€40m, based on the current market price of uranium, accounting for a few percent of the company’s estimated net sales in the coming years.

The Sotkamo mine’s previous owner, Talvivaara Mining Company, had planned to produce uranium at the site and built a uranium extraction plant before being declared bankrupt in 2014.

The company was subsequently bought by Terrafame, which is 70%-owned by Finnish Minerals Group, a special-purpose company wholly owned by the State of Finland.

According to the Euratom Supply Agency, the body responsible for the supervision of uranium supply and demand in the EU, about 97% of natural uranium supplied to the EU in 2022 came from overseas with deliveries from Russia decreasing by 16% as the bloc implemented efforts to reduce its dependency on Moscow.

Kazakhstan, Niger and Canada were the top three countries delivering natural uranium, providing 74.19% of the total. Kazakhstan’s share was 26.82%, Niger’s 25.38% and Canada’s 21.99%. Russia followed, with a 16.89% share.

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