The environmental impact of the new plant was assessed
The environmental impact assessment of the battery chemicals plant was conducted in parallel with the plant design activities. The application for an environmental permit covering all Terrafame’s operations was supplemented as required by the permitting authorities. The documentation for uranium recovery was also worked on during the year.
The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of Terrafame’s battery chemicals production was launched on 16 April 2018, at which time the EIA programme prepared by the company was announced by the coordinating authority, the regional Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre). The results of the assessment were presented in the EIA report announced on 18 October 2018. According to the conclusions all the options assessed are feasible and the project does not create significant adverse environmental effects.
No equipment or process stages, which are not already in use in the industry, have been planned for the new plant. The best feasible techniques will be used in the production of battery chemicals, and no major uncertainties are associated with the operations or emission levels. The battery chemicals plant does not generate new water emissions and the plant’s metal-containing side streams can be utilised in Terrafame’s current process.
Terrafame aims to file the environmental permit application for the production of battery chemicals in early 2019. In July 2018, the municipality of Sotkamo granted a building permit for the plant in the existing plant area.
The environmental permit application covering all operations was supplemented
The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) issued rulings on all Terrafame’s key permit decisions on 9 May 2017. These included the environmental and water management permit that covers all operations (including uranium recovery, RSAA decision No. 36/2014/1), an environmental permit for water emissions along the old discharge routes (RSAA decision No. 52/2013/1) and an environmental permit for the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe (RSAA decision No. 43/2015/1). The SAC upheld the ruling issued by the Vaasa Administrative Court (VAC) on 28 April 2016, according to which Terrafame was ordered to apply for a new environmental permit covering all operations by 31 August 2017.
Terrafame filed the application for environmental permit covering all its operations with the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland (RSAA) on 30 August 2017. The application for a new permit was supplemented on 27 July 2018 with the detailed process descriptions requested by the permitting authority and plans for the new production areas. The RSAA announced the application materials on 31 December 2018, and Terrafame expects a decision in late 2019.
The company’s current environmental and water management permits will remain in force until the new environmental permit covering all operations is legally valid.
Other permit processes and assessment procedures
On 3 May 2018, the RSAA granted an environmental permit (No 39/2018/1) to a third hydrogen sulphide plant, which was commissioned in the summer of 2018. The new hydrogen sulphide plant will ensure sufficient production capacity and provide operational reliability in maintenance shutdowns.
A decision concerning the mixing zone in Lake Nuasjärvi was issued by the RSAA on 12 November 2018. In its decision, the RSAA found no grounds to require a mixing zone because the discharge waters have been of good quality. At the same time, the RSAA issued a decision on two appeals concerning the monitoring programme for the discharge pipe in Lake Nuasjärvi, due to which the monitoring programme will be supplemented slightly starting from the beginning of 2019.
The VAC issued a decision on the centralised water treatment plant on 9 November 2018. In the decision, the plant's precipitate was ordered to be placed in the gypsum pond in a different section than the final neutralisation precipitate of equal quality, due to which Terrafame has applied for leave to appeal the decision with the Supreme Administrative Court.
The supervisory authority in charge of monitoring compliance with the requirements of the environmental permits – Kainuu ELY Centre – issued two written notices to Terrafame during 2018. One of them concerned the reorganisation of the independent quality control of environmental protection structures, while the other one was a request for clarification of the changes in the quality of groundwater. Both notices were taken into account in the company's operations.
At the end of the year, Terrafame had claims relating to permit decisions pending with the RSAA (register numbers: Psavi/2014/2015; Psavi/50/04.08/2013; Psavi/1774/2017). Terrafame expects the RSAA to issue decisions on the claims by the end of 2019.
Preparations for the EIA process concerning the final disposal of the water treatment precipitate placed into interim storage at the mining site by the previous operator, were initiated in autumn. The process is due to start in early 2019, at which time the EIA programme will be submitted to the Kainuu ELY centre.
The documentation on uranium recovery was also prepared in 2018. The Finnish Government is expected to issue a decision in 2019 on the application for a uranium recovery permit, which was filed in 2017.