Umicore to streamline its Cobalt and Specialty Materials activities

October 15, 2020

Umicore, a global materials technology and recycling group headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, has reported that, as part of the ongoing reassessment of its global production footprint, it plans to streamline its cobalt activities in the business unit Cobalt & Specialty Materials, with the aim of strengthening the business unit’s competitive position.

Cobalt & Specialty Materials is focussed on the refining, production and distribution of cobalt and nickel speciality chemicals for a wide-range of non-battery related applications, including Powder Metallurgy. Over the past few years, the business unit is reported to have been facing increasing competition in several of its end-markets, and more recently in its cobalt refining activities, due to the emergence of large-scale cobalt refineries.

Against this backdrop, Umicore has announced plans to consolidate part of the business unit’s core activities in Kokkola, Finland and Nashville, Tennessee, USA, in order to achieve synergies and strengthen the unit’s competitive position.

According to this plan, the cobalt refining and part of the cobalt transformation activities of the Olen plant in Belgium will be moved to the recently acquired Kokkola refinery in Finland. 

This refinery is one of the largest cobalt refineries globally, and allows the business unit to produce at larger and more competitive scale. The transfer of the activities is anticipated to be finalised by mid-2023 and will entail a reduction of 165 positions in Olen through natural attrition. 

In the US, the business unit will discontinue operations in Arab, Alabama, and consolidate activities in the plant in Nashville, Tennessee. The closing of the Arab plant will impact forty-two positions. Earlier in the year, the business unit also closed its cobalt, nickel and rhenium refining and recycling plant in Wickliffe, Ohio.

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