Perpetua to supply antimony for batteries
Partners with MIT-born liquid-metals battery company Ambri Metal Tech News – August 11, 2021
Last updated 8/17/2021 at 3:03pm
Idaho-focused mining company Perpetua Resources Corp. and Ambri Inc., a battery technology company born from research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have forged a partnership that will help advance the antimony-based liquid-metal battery technology that can provide the large-scale energy storage needed to decarbonize electrical grids in the United States and around the world.
"This agreement is a meaningful step in support of the current administration's goal of achieving 100% clean electricity in the U.S., while prioritizing the domestic manufacturing of battery technology," said Perpetua Resources CEO Laurel Sayer. "Perpetua continues to show how a modern mining company can not only be an essential part of the clean energy value chain, but also be key to the solution to the world's climate challenges."
The liquid-metal batteries developed by Ambri have a calcium alloy anode, a molten salt electrolyte, and an antimony cathode.
At room temperature, Ambri's cell is nonconductive, and its materials are solid. However, once heated to 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit), the minerals and metals melt and become active. The passing of ions through the electrolyte as the battery charges and discharges keeps the metals molten, eliminating the need for auxiliary heating or cooling.
All these liquids are stored in a single stainless-steel tank without the need for dividers because, like oil and water, they have different densities and do not mix.
Ambri says these batteries are less expensive to manufacture, work in a wider range of climatic conditions, last longer, and are safer than their lithium-ion counterparts.
Perpetua has entered into an agreement to supply Ambri with the antimony it needs to produce these batteries from the Stibnite gold project in Idaho.
"We are pleased to announce our partnership with Perpetua, which helps Ambri scale production of its leading battery technology," said Ambri Executive Chairman Dan Leff. "Ambri is well-positioned to become the lowest-cost producer of energy storage batteries, a critical building block enabling the transition to an entirely renewable power grid."
Originally developed in the 1920s as a gold mine that also produced silver and antimony, the Stibnite Mine was transformed into a strategic operation to supply America's antimony and tungsten needs during World War II.
"During the Second World War, when the U.S. faced a crisis because it didn't have sufficient antimony of its own – let that be a lesson here – and so it launched the development of the Stibnite Mine in Idaho," said Chris Ecclestone, a mining strategist with Hallgarten & Co. in London.
From 1941 to 1945, the Stibnite Mine produced more antimony and tungsten than any other mine in the U.S. – accounting for 90% of the antimony and 40% of the tungsten produced during this wartime effort.
Due to antimony's use in a fireproofing compound applied to tents, apparel, and vehicle covers, this Idaho mine has been credited for saving millions of lives and helping to bring World War II to an end.
"In the opinion of the Munitions Board, the discovery of that tungsten at Stibnite, Idaho, in 1942 shortened World War II by at least 1 year and saved the lives of a million American soldiers," according to the March 7, 1956 U.S. Senate Congressional Record.
The lives saved came at an environmental cost to the Yellow Pine area of Idaho where the Stibnite Mine was located. Perpetua, however, plans to help clean up the environmental legacy of the mine while also producing the antimony critical to the U.S.
According to a 2014 prefeasibility study, the Stibnite Mine being permitted by Perpetua would produce roughly 100 million pounds of antimony, 4 million ounces of gold, and 2 million oz of silver over an initial 12 years of operations.
Under the agreement with Ambri, Perpetua would supply enough antimony for more than 13-gigawatt hours of electrical storage capacity, which is more than eight times the amount of energy storage added to the entire U.S. market during 2020.
"Today's agreement directly links the redevelopment of the Stibnite gold project – and the restoration of the site – to a new battery manufacturing partner that is poised to play a critical role in reducing carbon emissions," said Sayer. "Our partnership with Ambri significantly increases the strategic and long-term value of our project and breathes further life into our guiding ESG (environmental, social, and governance) principles."
The agreement with Perpetua coincides with Ambri securing $144 million in new financing to accelerate the commercialization of Ambri's leading liquid metal battery and build a domestic manufacturing facility to fundamentally change the way power grids operate.
More information on the financing and a strategic partnership to develop and manufacture Ambri's batteries in India can be read at Ambri funding meets scale of battery tech in the current edition of Metal Tech News.
Perpetua hopes to finalize the federal permitting process by the end of this year and begin the work of restoring legacy environmental damage and building a modern era Stibnite Mine in 2022. Commercial production of antimony, gold, and silver from the Idaho mine is expected to begin in 2026.
The company says it is engaging with other potential end-users of antimony and will provide updates as they become available.