New vanadium processing plant in Finland planned for 2024 opening

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A major new vanadium processing facility is set to open in Finland in late 2024 after the formation of a joint venture (JV) to deliver the project.

Australian project development companies Critical Metals and Neometals have formed the JV with support from EIT RawMaterials, part of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), an EU agency.

The Vanadium Recovery Project (VRP), located in Pori on the southwest coast, will produce the vanadium to be used in grid-scale vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB), specialty steel applications and next generation lithium-vanadium cells, the announcement said.

It will use ‘slag’ from local steel producers to recover the metal. Today, around 70% of the metal comes from this method with three primary producers of the chemical sharing another 20% of the market: Largo Resources, Bushveld Minerals and Glencore.

VRP will rely on a novel proprietary hydrometallurgical process that results in no waste and its by-products will be used in the production of co2-free cement.

The European Commission classifies vanadium as a critical raw material and wants to diversify the source of the chemical, which is currently 75% supplied by China (almost entirely as by-products of steel and other industries). There is minimal vanadium processing or production capacity in Europe outside of Russia.

Darren Townsend, Chief Development Officer at Neometals, said: “We believe that in the next 10
years vanadium will be the ‘new lithium’. We see a lot of parallels on where the vanadium industry
is now versus where the lithium industry was 10 years ago. We are happy that EIT RawMaterials
agrees with this assessment and continues to support us in driving this project rapidly forward.”

Vanadium is increasingly being seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries in light of its longer duration, lower fire risk and lower reliance on lithium which has gone through big price spikes recently – and for which electric vehicles (EVs) will likely always be prioritised. However, not all are so convinced long-duration storage technologies like it are likely to take off in the way some are hoping or predicting.

That the two companies involved in the joint venture are Australian is noteworthy as the country is making a big push to set up a domestic supply chain, as has reported. It has no production or processing facilities despite having the third-largest natural reserves in the world. The primary producers’ vanadium production facilities are in South Africa and Brazil.

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