Research in the mineral sector is active and international
GTK’s Mineral economics theme promotes the exploitation and upgrading of mineral raw materials and creating solutions for developing material needs.
Long-tern surveying of soil’s raw material resources has always been an integral part of GTK’s operations. Improving the effectiveness and cost efficiency of these core operations continued in the report year. The renewal of GTK’s operational model related to surveying of mineral resources and mapping of ore potential was hurried. New primary products (data, reports) were specified and the project structure of operations was streamlined.
For years, GTK’s work has affected the formation of the mineral policy and turning the policy into concrete plans of action. In the report year, GTK tried to realise the mining research strategy drawn up in 2015 through different financing channels. Unfortunately, GTK has not yet been able to identify a significant programme in Finland, through which these objectives could be promoted extensively, and so far GTK has only been able to carry out single actions.
Because the growth of the global economy has slowed down, raw material prices have decreased, resulting in a decrease in global investments in ore exploration. In GTK’s case, this resulted in a decrease in orders from, for instance, the pilot plant and the mineral processing laboratory.
The effectiveness of (Invest in) operations aimed at mineral companies and the demand for GTK’s services suffered also from the recession. It does seem, however, that the slowest period of investments in mineral exploration has already been passed. In 2016, over 10 new companies started mineral exploration operations in Finland, with primary focus on nickel, gold, lithium, and flake graphite deposits.
In the beginning of 2016, GTK gave up in-house bedrock sampling and started buying the sampling services.
Knowledge of Finland’s mineral resources strengthened
During the reporting year, the volume of GTK’s operations still focused on the Mineral resources and raw material supply. The focus of mineral potential mapping was in gold (Au) and nickel (Ni) exploration. The overall evaluations of these minerals were completed, and indicate good potential. The mineral atlas of the arctic areas was completed as an extensive international cooperation.
The results of the regional project that investigated the mineral potential of Central Finland were published. Central Finland’s mineral potential has been poorly known earlier. The results of the projects investigating phosphorus (P) and REE elements were published. Overall, 33 mineral potential reports and 44 reports related to occurrence and research of minerals were published.
Finland’s new bedrock map at a scale of 1:1,000,000 was completed. The completion of the final definition document was delayed until 2017.
Cooperation in the mineral sector is active
Cooperation with Tukes deepened according to the previously agreed objectives. The concrete definition work focused on improving the availability of survey material produced by mineral exploration companies, planning of data stream harmonisation, and outlining a joint service vision. The technical harmonisation of the data stream will continue as a joint project between GTK and Tukes in 2017–2018.
Cooperation in inorganic material research has been increased, and research supporting competence development has been allocated in the fields of mineral economics, material research and research of mining environments. The development of the Mineral Prospectivity Modeller in cooperation with Tekes and companies represents innovation cooperation with external parties, specified in the strategy.
In order to strengthen the innovation ecosystem if the mineral sector, a decision was made to establish a material research laboratory with Aalto University and VTT on the Otaniemi campus. New equipment, purchased with the Academy of Finland’s FIRI funding, will also be placed in the joint laboratory. Initiatives to establish strong theme-specific competence centres for geosciences in Finland both with bilateral and national actions are also being prepared. GTK established a joint professorship on geochemistry with the University of Oulu. Cooperation with universities was deepened.
GTK is a European expert in the mineral sector
GTK acts as a core partner in the EIT Raw Materials KIC consortium that was founded in early 2015. It consists of over 100 actors in the industrial sector, universities and research institutes. In addition to project results, the positive impact of the EIT Raw Materials consortium can also be seen in GTK’s extensive networks in Europe. Other positive results include the strengthening of the KIC operations and funding. GTK is one of the consortium’s most active actors in regard to the number of projects.
GTK also participated actively in preparing the ERANET Applied Geosciences with the ministry with mutually agreed preconditions. In the consortium, GTK is particularly interested in cooperation related to mineral resources, and the specification and implementation of the EU’s joint data infrastructures.
GTK has strived to actively influence the content of the Horizon 2020 programme both via national support groups and via the EU’s innovation partnership concerning raw material resources and the European Platform on Sustainable Mineral Resources (ETP-SMR). The objective has been to highlight the importance of primary production of mineral raw materials, and the solutions suitable for the circular economy theme. The EIP-RM Scoreboard report published in 2016 indicates that the raw material sector must still work at the EU level to increase the level of self-sufficiency.
In the report year, GTK joined in a number of Horizon 2020 projects as partner. In the internal project application processes of the EIT Raw Materials consortium, GTK had great success. GTK joined ten new projects with a total income effect (EIT KAVA funding) which should exceed one million euros in the coming years.
As an active member of the EuroGeoSurveys organisation (EGS), GTK belongs to a European geo sector research and information infrastructure.