March 6, 2018 / 9:51 AM / 3 months ago

Finnish nickel mine founder files for bankruptcy

HELSINKI, March 6 (Reuters) - Finland’s Ahtium Oyj , formerly named Talvivaara Mining Company, which ran a troubled nickel mine in northern Finland, said on Tuesday it had filed for bankruptcy after failing to secure financing for future projects.

Ahtium is the former owner of the mine which leaked waste water in 2012 and faced serious production problems, prompting the Finnish government to take control of it in 2015 in a bid to protect local jobs and the environment.

The company, while still named Talvivaara, listed in London in 2007 with the aim of becoming Europe’s biggest nickel mine by pioneering a process of using bacteria to extract nickel.

But following the environmental damage, Talvivaara was placed into debt restructuring and the government set up a company called Terrafame to ramp up the mine in 2015. Commodities trader Trafigura took a stake in the mine last year.

Talvivaara has since tried to find new business under its new name.

“During the last four years, the company has been able to complete the corporate reorganization proceedings and clean up its balance sheet, but unfortunately developing the company’s own business projects, acquiring new businesses and securing financing for these actions proved an overwhelming task,” Ahtium chairman Tapani Jarvinen said in a statement.

In 2016, a Finnish court fined the company and its founder Pekka Pera for environmental damages.

Pera was also handed a suspended eight month sentence last year, after a court ruled the company misled investors by giving unrealistic forecasts for nickel production in 2012-2013. Pera and the company has appealed both rulings.

Ahtium still has about 80,000 Finnish shareholders and its shares have been suspended from trading since 2014. State of Finland owns 7.6 percent of the firm. (Reporting by Tuomas Forsell, editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Louise Heavens)

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