Lithium minerals were identified in Central Ostrobothnia already in the 1950s.
The first indications of lithium in Central Ostrobothnia were discovered in 1956 in Kaustinen when a lithium phosphate mineral called triphylite was observed in boulders containing beryl. Late in the summer of 1959, prospector Arvo Puumala from Kaustinen presented summer trainee geologist Ilmari Haapala from Suomen Mineraali Oy some boulders from Nikula, Kaustinen, containing an abundance of a mineral unknown to both of them. The mineral proved to be spodumene, a rate lithium mineral which had never been found in Finland outside Eräjärvi and Somero.
The first lithium deposits are found
After discovering the spodumene, Suomen Mineraali Oy launched an extensive boulder mapping project, led by geologist Klaus Säynäjärvi, in Kaustinen and its surrounding municipalities. After the company had been taken over by Paraisten Kalkkivuori Oy, the exploration went on to reveal lithium deposits in Emmes and Jänislampi in Alaveteli as well as in Länttä, Ullava. The lithium deposits in Länttä and Emmes were drilled in the 1960s in order to commence potential mining operations. Veins of spodumene were also discovered in Vintturi, Kaustinen as well as Ruohojärvi, Kälviä.
First tests to produce lithium carbonate
Paraisten Kalkkivuori Oy, later Partek Oy, studied the exploitation of the lithium deposits extensively in 1976–1982. The research covered the mineral processing tests for producing spodumene concentrate as well as its by-products: quartz, feldspar and mica concentrates. The refining of spodumene concentrate into lithium carbonate, the most common merchandised form of lithium, was also studied until the point that the decision on the investment was possible. However, the idea of mining and mineral processing operations and initiating the production of lithium carbonate was abandoned in the early 1980s due to the limited volume of the global lithium market and the major market risks.
The Keliber project and the establishment of the company
The Keliber working group was established in the spring of 1999 when the group staked claims on five lithium deposits. The group drew up a project plan and started to look for funding for a preliminary research project in the autumn of the same year. The rural department of the Central Ostrobothnian public employment and business services centre granted the project EU funding, and the preliminary research project was launched in early 2000 and continued until the autumn of 2001. The promising results from the preliminary investigation led to the founding of the research and development company Keliber Resources Ltd.
In 2001–2006, Keliber Resources Ltd and Outotec developed in co-operation a new lithium carbonate production process specifically customised for the lithium deposits of Central Ostrobothnia. In 2006, Keliber Resources Ltd Oy was granted environmental and mining licences for Länttä, Ullava and an environmental licence for lithium production in Kalavesi, Kaustinen. Keliber Resources Ltd Oy was renamed Keliber Oy the same year.
In addition to the mining licence in Syväjärvi (2019) and Länttä, the company holds a number of exploration permits and claims in the extensive lithium province of Central Ostrobothnia. Today, the company is mostly owned by Finnish investment companies and private investors. The largest individual owner of the company with over 24 % of the shares is Finnish Minerals Group. Other large owners include Nordic Mining ASA, Jorma Takanen and Mine Invest.