Boliden will launch an independent nickel smelting business, buying nickel concentrates from external suppliers and selling nickel matte to nickel refineries. The annual production is estimated to remain at 25,000 metric tons (mt) of nickel in matte.

The combined copper and nickel smelter, Boliden Harjavalta in Finland, has been smelting nickel concentrates since the mid 1950s. For several years, Boliden Harjavalta has been toll smelting nickel concentrates. In 2013, approximately 250,000 mt of nickel concentrates were processed into nickel matte, containing about 25,000 mt of nickel, for further treatment at external nickel refineries.

In connection with the current tolling contract expiring, Boliden will change its nickel business model to more resemble the model for the company’s copper and zinc business. Instead of processing nickel concentrates for customers, Boliden will buy concentrates from a variety of mines and sell the nickel matte to nickel refineries.

“The timing is good and the change of business model gives us an exciting opportunity to start sourcing concentrates and supplying the growing market. As the only nickel smelter in western Europe, Boliden Harjavalta is strategically positioned, with a short distance to a port and the lowest sulphur dioxide emissions per ton of nickel of any nickel smelter in the world,” said Kerstin Konradsson, president, Boliden Smelters.

The global market for nickel is approximately 2 million mt/y and the Chinese stainless steel producers are the most important buyers. Global smelter capacity reductions and new nickel mines coming on stream are expected to result in increased demand for nickel smelting.