From a transport business to a forerunner in circular economy
Tapojärvi is a family business in its third generation. The company’s roots are in Lapland. The company’s principles and operations are based on the values enforced by Esko and Orvokki Tapojärvi.
Esko Tapojärvi employed himself at 14 by doing all sorts of odd jobs wherever there was even little money to be made. Esko never finished school as the young man was too eager to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
As a young adult, Esko fell in love and bought a car on his last day as a bachelor.
In those days, there were not many transport service providers, and Esko saw there his opportunity to thrive.
On 27 October 1955, Esko Tapojärvi bought a Pobeda and launched his own business.
Soon, the family began to grow.
At first, the business provided taxi services. The entrepreneurial man enjoyed driving and signed his first transport agreement with the School Board of Muonio. The company was assigned to provide transport services for the pupils of the School of Kihlanki.
On the first day of service, the school caught fire and Esko’s first task was to take a teacher to the hospital.
Despite the setbacks, Esko continued and expanded his business. Soon, the man was responsible for transporting milk for Valio to Kaukonen in Kittilä.
Up to two vehicles were used to provide this service. The business also began to transport gravel for road building projects.
In 1966, Esko Tapojärvi moved to Helsinki to transport gravel on behalf of Tauno Valo.
The family was often on the road and moved after new business opportunities.
Life was not easy during the first years of business. Orvokki was responsible for bringing up the children, chopping wood and taking care of the family’s home. In addition to all this, Orvokki transported spare parts to the work sites and brought food for the workers who were working around the clock. But it was worth it: happy and healthy employees are the company’s most important resource.
One night in 1972, Esko Tapojärvi received a phone call. He was asked to come to Kolari and cover for another service provider. His job was to transport broken rock at the mine of Rautuvaara.
It ended up being a long commission, as the job lasted for 16 years. During this commission, the business had to grow its equipment arsenal and personnel and start developing other services for the customers.
As the business expanded, the company was renamed as Maansiirtoliike Tapojärvi Ky. Esko owned the majority of the shares and his oldest son Markku became Esko’s business partner.
The region of Kolari took a serious hit when the mine was closed. Tapojärvi was lucky because it was able to provide work for its workers in Sea Lapland. In 1985, Tapojärvi was contracted to work at the Kemi mine of Outokumpu.
Three years later, the company entered another contract at a steel mill in Tornio. That is when the company was introduced to working with slag.
Tapojärvi did machine contracting for Suomen Kuonajaloste (SKJ companies). The company was not only tasked to do loading but, at Outokumpu’s request, Tapojärvi began to research slag treatment methods together with SKJ and Outokumpu.
Tapojärvi’s mill services expanded to Raahe. The mine contract in Kemi kept growing.
In 1995, the business was transferred to the next generation. At the same time, Veljekset Tapojärvi Oy, owned by Esko’s sons, merged with the company. Around this time, Tapojärvi was engaged in machine contracting projects across Finland.
In 1999, SKJ companies built a ferrochromium refinery in Tornio. As a co-owner, Tapojärvi was responsible for the forward end of the refinery.
The brothers were interested in the development of a circular economy. They also believed in the new financial opportunities generated by slag treatment.
As the company’s operations became more versatile, the company name was changed to Tapojärvi Oy at the turn of the millennium.
A few years later, Tapojärvi acquired the entire ferrochromium refinery in Tornio. The company started to develop the recovery of ferrochromium together with Outokumpu. Several projects were launched to address customers’ needs and problems.
Tapojärvi invested in development and hired more employees and experts. In 2007, the company began to design a refined steel slag treatment process. A few years later, another refinery was built for the purpose of processing stainless steel slag.
Tapojärvi was increasingly interested in industrial by-products.
The company’s mill services were also growing rapidly. More contracts and workers were acquired. Tapojärvi entered a contract at the gold mine of Kittilä, for example.
In the 2010s, Tapojärvi specialised in three service areas: circular economy, mining services and mill services. Tapojärvi has grown into a group that consists of, for example, Tapojärvi Sverige Ab, Tapojärvi Italia S.r.l and Hannukainen Mining Oy.
Esko Tapojärvi is over 80 years old but he still follows actively the work of the new generation.
He is happy with the fact that Tapojärvi has launched the project to reopen the mine in Kolari with domestic resources.
“It feels like the company is returning to its roots – where I first started this business. It is the responsibility of the entrepreneur to ensure that their employees have work,” says Esko Tapojärvi.
In the 2020s, the operations of Tapojärvi will continue to specialise in mining services, industrial circular economy and technology. The company’s third refinery is being built in Italy. Tapojärvi will launch the production of mining services at the Siilinjärvi mine of Yara. It is the first alliance-type service contract in Finland. The circular economy services will be expanded to the forest industry.