One man’s passion grew into a large company

At Tapojärvi, work is being done already in the third generation. The company’s roots stem from the values that Esko and Orvokki Tapojärvi instilled in their successors. The Tapojärvi way of working is based on these values.

1950s

Esko Tapojärvi was already working by the age of 14 doing odd jobs wherever there was some money to be made. He dropped out of folk school because his industrious nature took him from one job to the next.

Approaching adulthood, he fell in love and on his last day as a bachelor, Esko decided to buy a car.

“At the time, there were not many transport services and I saw that there could be a use for them”, says Esko Tapojärvi.

On 27 October 1955, he signed a deal on a Pobeda car and started the business operations of Tapojärvi.

1960s

Initially, the company provided taxi services. Driving was enjoyable and the entrepreneurial man signed his first transportation contract with the Muonio Board of Education. Soon Esko started transporting milk from the whole of Western Lapland to Valio in Kaukonen, Kittilä.

At best, the milk was transported using two vehicles. The entrepreneur also started transporting gravel for the roads of Lapland, which were under construction.

In 1966, Esko Tapojärvi moved to Helsinki to transport gravel for Tauno Valo with vehicles called “Hyrylä’s destroyers”.

The family travelled along to wherever there was work.

“It wasn’t easy.” In practice, Orvokki had to raise the children almost on her own, take care of the home and chop wood for heating. She still wanted to bring items and snacks to the worksite when the workers’ days stretched from morning to night. “This is because healthy employees are a company’s most important asset”, says Esko.

1970s

One night in 1972, Esko received a call asking him to serve as a stand-in in his hometown of Kolari. The job was to transport blasted rock from the Rautavaara mine.
“It was a long stand-in job because it lasted for 16 years. During this time, the number of machines and personnel had to be increased and other services also had to be developed to meet the customers’ needs”, says Esko Tapojärvi, recalling the years of growth.

Each member of the family did their part. The girls helped their mother with paperwork while the boys took the steering wheel, following in their father’s footsteps. The second generation of the family grew into entrepreneurship.

1980s

As the operations expanded, the sole proprietorship owned by Esko was changed to Maansiirtoliike Tapojärvi Ky (limited partnership). Esko owned the majority of the shares and his oldest son Markku joined him as partner. His daughters Jaana and Pirjo were silent partners.

In 1985, Tapojärvi started contract work at the Kemi mine and, three years later, the company had its first contact with slag at the Tornio steelworks.

“We carried out machinery work for Suomen Kuonajaloste (SKJ companies), although the job didn’t just involve loading. At the request of the customer, we started exploring the potential of slag together with SKJ and Outokumpu”, says Pertti Tapojärvi.

“We crushed, conducted tests, experimented, screened and developed different treatment methods.”

1990s

The factory services soon expanded to Raahe. The mining contract in Kemi also continued to grow.

The company underwent a change of generation in 1995. Veljekset Tapojärvi Oy, a business owned by Esko’s sons, merged with the company at the same time. At the time, Tapojärvi was carrying out machinery work all over Finland.

In 1999, SKJ companies built a ferrochrome valorisation plant in Tornio. Tapojärvi was the plant’s part owner managing its upstream end.

“We were interested in by-products of the steel industry. We knew that they included valuable materials. The development of slag treatment was interesting, and we also saw financial opportunities in it”, recalls Markku Tapojärvi.

2000s

At the turn of the millennium, the company’s name was changed to Tapojärvi Oy.

A few years later, Tapojärvi acquired the full operations of the ferrochrome valorisation plant. The company started improving the recovery of ferrochrome together with Outokumpu. Several projects related to the needs and problems of the customer were created. Tapojärvi made investments and hired more employees and experts.

“We made changes to the process, introduced a fines valorisation circuit and soon, there was nothing left over for final disposal. In 2009, we started building a refined steel valorisation plant for Tornio’s stainless steel slag”, says Pertti Tapojärvi.

Mining services also grew at a rapid pace. Contracts increased and more employees were hired. In addition to other locations, a mining contract also started at the Kittilä gold mine.

2010s

In the 2010s, operational activities were divided into three service areas: mining services, factory services and the circular economy. Tapojärvi grew into a group that included Tapojärvi Sverige AB, Tapojärvi Italia S.r.l and Hannukainen Mining Oy.

“It was a great moment when I heard that we would be involved in launching the mining project in Kolari. It felt like Tapojärvi was returning to its roots – to where I once started all this business”, says Esko Tapojärvi.

“One must be humble looking back. And forward. This company already has its third generation involved and employs 500 people. They are all equally important.”