Consortium underpins concrete investment opportunities in mining towns – including Outokumpu. The European Commission’s mandate also brings good news to the REMIX Project involving nine European mining countries, which met up in Joensuu from 11 to 14 March.

The role of Business Joensuu in the cooperative network of European mining regions is strengthened further, as the European Commission approved Joensuu’s proposal for regional cooperation between North Karelia, Lapland and Kainuu, as well as Sweden, Greece and Spain. The Commission’s approval is a strong mandate to undertake measures aiming at investments in the mining industry. In terms of North Karelia, the significance of this entity is crystallised right at the moment when FinnCobalt Oy aims to produce cobalt and nickel chemicals for the electric car industry from the ore body of Outokumpu’s former copper mine.

What is REMIX?

The fall of European SMEs’ competitiveness compared to the rest of the world has been a major concern in the European Union. To address this issue, a well-targeted programme was created for industrial modernisation, strongly linked with the extractive industries. The project created for the extractive industry is called REMIX – Smart and Green Mining Regions of EU.
North Karelia and Lapland participate in the two-phase REMIX Project from Finland. The other European mining regions are located in Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, Austria and Poland.

– REMIX’s working methods include sharing information and experience, and using peer review to process concerns and opportunities. Each European mining region has its own specific characteristics, but there are also various common challenges. The common themes include environmental issues, unemployment, the ageing population and bottlenecks in the international networks, Development Manager of Business Joensuu Ilkka Nykänen describes.

Towards investments

Commencing in early 2017, the REMIX cooperation takes place in two phases. The second phase will start next July, after which the cooperation will be strengthened at company level.
The cooperative consortium created by Business Joensuu and approved by the European Commission also aims at concrete results and investments. This consortium involves the REMIX regions of North Karelia and Lapland, Sterea Ellada in Greece and Castile and León in Spain, as well as Kainuu and Västerbotten in Sweden. The group is organised by Business Joensuu. Ilkka Nykänen’s partner in this project is Development Manager Jukka Hyvönen, who has expertise in European Commission projects, funding and regional development.

– The operation currently aims at concrete investments both through projects, as well as directly in business. Now that the commission has approved our proposal regarding the approach, many new doors and a direct telephone line will open to us at the EU level, Hyvönen says, and stresses the importance of getting the business sector’s voice heard in everyday life.

In addition to the possible funding channels, Hyvönen and Nykänen emphasise the importance of stronger networks and expert cooperation provided by the European Commission.

Support from OECD in global questions

The key idea behind REMIX is to become acquainted with European mining regions’ current situation and learn from good practices. After working in the extractive industry for twenty-odd years, Ilkka Nykänen suggested that they would use Outokumpu as a case study.

– Outokumpu Mining Camp is a marketing name for the work currently under way in the Outokumpu region. The extractive industry is the spearhead of this work, but also broader measures and investments are involved to develop the regional economy further.

In the European scale, Outokumpu is an excellent example of a mining town, which has accumulated an unbelievable amount of expertise and industries born out of the extractive sector, and later also tourism.

– I made a proposal to include the economic organisation OECD in the cooperation. Both OECD and the politicians, officials and business managers in Outokumpu understood the benefits of this cooperation. The first OECD meeting took place in Outokumpu in December 2018. A similar learning project has not previously taken place in Finland or elsewhere in the world, says Nykänen from Business Joensuu.

Cobalt from Outokumpu

The old mine as well as the mines of Mökkivaara, Keretti and Vuonos were operational for 79 years in Outokumpu. Altogether, the mines produced 40 million tonnes of copper ore and concentrates. At best, the mine employed more than 1 700 workers, and many families worked deep underground for four generations. The mining activities came to an end in 1989.

– When the mine was closed, the city needed to move forward and build the future. There have been difficulties, but we have managed to establish an industrial village and attract new businesses to the region. The challenges and problems are shared by all towns, where mining activities come to an end, says Outotec’s previous President, member of Outokumpu’s Local Executive, and Chair of Vitality and Corporate Governance Ilkka Hiltunen.

According to his estimation, Outokumpu can both contribute to and gain from the European cooperation. Hiltunen highlights, for instance, the test factory and laboratories of the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) in Outokumpu, the expertise of which is in global demand.

According to Ilkka Hiltunen, the cobalt resources have been recognised since the 1970s. Drilling took place and even test tunnels were dug throughout the years, but the plans were dropped when cobalt’s world market price collapsed.

Time and technological development have changed the plans. The future belongs to electric cars, and cobalt is required for their batteries. Hiltunen estimates that, with the current prices, the cobalt in Outokumpu will be excavated. At the moment, the world’s largest producer of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A great deal of mining in Congo is based on local handiwork and the use of child labour.

Further information:
Business Joensuu
Ilkka Nykänen
Development Manager
+358 50 518 5736