Metal producer at the forefront of the green transition
The green transition is accelerating rapidly. Driven by ambitious carbon neutrality targets and growing competition, all industries from housing to primary production are now pushing down their emissions.
Emissions have also been tackled for years at Boliden, one of the largest mining and smelting companies in Finland and Europe. Boliden produces metals such as zinc, copper, lead, nickel, gold and silver. In Finland, the company refines zinc at Boliden Kokkola and copper and nickel at Boliden Harjavalta, and mines ores at Boliden Kevitsa's multimetal mine.
Boliden aims to cut its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, which would also make the company's entire production process low-carbon. The copper and zinc grades developed by Boliden, with carbon footprints clearly below the industry average, currently account for almost one-fourth of production.
The production of zinc in Kokkola is already practically low carbon, as the plant's CO2 emissions are almost entirely caused by the generation of the electricity consumed.
Saving the world one tonne at a time
According to Miika Forsberg, Technology Manager at Boliden, the company has a significant role to play in the green transition. Its low-carbon metals are needed, for example, in the construction of solar and wind power plants and transmission networks, in electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure, and in batteries and a wide range of other metal products and structures.
– This has also given all new meaning to our work here at Boliden. We are pioneers, saving the world one tonne at a time, says Mr Forsberg.
The goal of continuously cutting emissions is a great driver for streamlining production processes and looking for more effective utilisation of side streams. It also naturally reduces the amount of material waste and helps preserve scarce natural resources.
– The best and purest ore reserves have already been mined for the most part, and today, the guiding principle is to refine more with less. That is why we continuously strive to develop our work towards making production processes more energy and resource-efficient and environmentally friendly, Mr Forsberg explains.
And as the old saying goes, appetite comes with eating.
– We have succeeded very well in our efforts to reduce emissions in the past, so why would we stop now, Mr Forsberg adds.
Great and rewarding challenge
In recent years, automation and digitalisation have shaped the production processes of many industries, including the metal industry. Tasks in a modern metal plant now mostly consist of supervision, predictive maintenance, and process development with digital tools.
But the picture of sooty metal workers still sits tight, as Digi Metallurgist Jani Jansson well knows.
Mr Jansson’s job is to find out how digitalisation, automation, data, and diverse digital tools could be utilised more in production.
– We will need more diverse expertise than before to meet our green transition and emission reduction targets. Knowing the basics of metallurgy and metal processing is important, but we also need people who are skilled in, for example, process control, maintenance, support operations for production, and software development, Mr Jansson says.
Mr Forsberg also points out that work itself has become more proactive and independent. Production processes are continuously being optimised and monitored in order to tackle potential issues in advance.
– With the green transition, we will face the big but rewarding challenge of processing and refining more complex and impure raw materials into products that are cleaner than before – with minimal emissions. It requires not only more extensive expertise, but also willingness to learn new things and adopt new methods, Mr Forsberg says.
Helsingin Sanomat, Henkilöstö-erikoisjulkaisu 24.8.2023
Text: Timo Sormunen / Photo: Patrik Pesonen, Miika Forsberg