Electra Battery Materials Park on schedule
Cobalt and recycling circuits slated for startup by year's end Metal Tech News – March 23, 2022
Last updated 6/8/2023 at 11:56am
Electra Battery Materials Corp. is making headway on upgrades and expansions of North America's only battery-grade cobalt refinery, the centerpiece of an emerging eco-industrial park in Ontario that will supply battery materials to the lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle plants in North America.
Electra's cobalt refinery is a hydrometallurgical facility that previously operated in Ontario for a decade. Since acquiring this asset, the company has been advancing a strategy to develop an eco-industrial park capable of supplying enough battery materials for 1.5 million electric vehicles per year.
Toward this objective, Electra is upgrading the existing refinery into a facility capable of producing 25,000 metric tons of battery-grade cobalt sulfate annually, which will account for more than 25% of this important lithium-ion battery ingredient produced outside of China.
In parallel, a circuit is being built alongside the cobalt refinery that will recycle lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and graphite from spent lithium-ion batteries.
In a March 22 update, the company says the refinery upgrade and expansion project remains on budget and commission of the expanded cobalt plant is slated to begin before the end of the year.
Commercial production of the cobalt sulfate and battery materials refining circuits is expected by the onset of 2023.
"Our team has been focused on both the recommissioning of our existing refinery equipment and preparing the site for the construction of the new solvent extraction and crystallizer plant facilities," said Electra Battery Materials Vice President of Project Development Mark Trevisiol. "These are important milestones and a credit to our project owner's team and our consultants who continue to demonstrate a disciplined commitment to executing this project."
To keep this project on schedule, Electra has ordered the equipment and supplies needed for the refinery from jurisdictions deemed less likely to experience interruptions in global supply chains that were already snarled and are being further disrupted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a resurgence of COVID in China.
The company says this strategy has allowed it to keep the construction of the refinery on schedule, and all indications are the rest of the major equipment will arrive on time to begin commissioning in December.
While keeping the development on schedule and budget are important, Electra is particularly pleased that crews have advanced the cobalt refinery upgrades with zero lost-time incidents and no environmental issues.
"With no lost-time incidents at site, we continue to stress our values on health and safety, which speaks to the commitment of our team to delivering the project with zero lost time incidents in parallel with being on time and on budget," Trevisiol added.
While crews are advancing the expanded cobalt refinery and battery materials recycling circuit toward commercial production, Electra is already looking ahead to adding a plant to produce nickel sulfate, another key lithium battery ingredient.
In February, the company announced a partnership with the Ontario government, Glencore plc, and Talon Metals Corp. to study the engineering, permitting, socio-economic and cost parameters of developing a nickel sulfate and lithium battery precursor cathode active materials plant adjacent to the cobalt refinery.
Further details on the plans to add a nickel sulfate and cathode active materials plant to the emerging battery park can be read at Talon joins Electra battery park vision in the February 25, 2022 edition of Metal Tech News.
This would make the Electra Battery Materials Park – which lies about 375 miles north of General Motors' new BrightDrop EV production facility in southern Ontario and 500 miles north of Detroit, Michigan – a major hub for supplying battery-grade cobalt, nickel, lithium, and graphite needed for EV manufacturing facilities being built in Canada and the U.S.
In the coming years, Electra intends to build further processing capacity for nickel sulfate, recycling of primary and secondary battery scrap materials, and lithium battery precursor production.
"Canada is becoming a key player in the midstream of the North American electric vehicle supply chain," said Electra Battery Materials CEO Trent Mell. "Recent investment decisions by some of the largest players in the EV industry continue to validate our early-mover strategy. While our team continues to deliver on the recommissioning of the refinery, we are aggressively pursuing commercial partnerships and growth opportunities to deliver value to shareholders."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ontario recently released a critical minerals strategy focused largely on lithium battery materials that include investments in Electra's battery materials park. More information can be found at An Ontario critical minerals strategy in the current edition of Metal Tech News.