Glencore to buy Electra recycled metals
Agrees to offtake cobalt, nickel from battery materials park Metal Tech News - April 7, 2022
Last updated 4/19/2022 at 12:32pm
With mining giant Glencore AG agreeing to buy the nickel and cobalt recycled from spent lithium-ion batteries over the next two years, Electra Battery Materials Corp.'s vision of developing an eco-industrial park in Ontario that serves as a one-stop-shop for the materials needed for the batteries powering 1.5 million electric vehicles per year is one step closer to reality.
The Electra Battery Materials Park is being developed around the company's cobalt refinery about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Toronto.
Glencore has long been a supporter of Electra's vision, providing feed material, technical support, and funding for the modernization and expansion of the hydrometallurgical refinery that will be capable of producing 25,000 metric tons of battery-grade cobalt sulfate annually and be the centerpiece of the emerging battery materials park.
The second phase of this battery materials complex is a facility being built alongside the cobalt refinery that will recycle lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and graphite from spent lithium-ion batteries.
Under an offtake agreement announced on April 6, Glencore will buy the nickel and cobalt recycled from the black mass produced from recycled lithium-ion batteries.
"This is another step in de-risking Electra's Battery Materials Park project. By securing an offtake for our recycled nickel and cobalt production at market rates, we can now continue to focus on construction and operational readiness for Phase 1 and Phase 2," said Electra Battery Materials CEO Trent Mell.
In the lithium-ion battery recycling process, black mass is a powdery material that is produced by crushing or shredding the electrodes pulled out of spent batteries. This black powder contains critical battery materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, graphite, and copper.
This black mass must be further processed to extract the metals and minerals, which can then be upgraded to the anode and cathode materials that can be circulated back into new batteries.
Electra says it has established relationships with more than 30 black mass producers and expects to work with up to four to supply feed to its refinery.
As a hydrometallurgical plant, Electra's facility will be able to recover more of the battery materials from the provided black mass at lower cost and with significantly less energy than traditional refineries. Coupled with the Electra refinery being powered by clean hydroelectricity, the greenhouse gas emissions at the cobalt refinery and recycling facility will be nearly nil, an important consideration for the battery and EV manufacturers seeking responsible and reliable battery material sources.
"The demand for recycled battery materials is very strong but there is limited refining capacity in North America today to treat black mass with a hydrometallurgical process – the preferred route due to high metal recoveries and near zero GHG emissions," said Trent Mell, CEO. "Electra expects to be one of the first such refiners, leveraging its permitted site north of Toronto and approximately C$100 million of existing infrastructure and equipment."
With this head-start, Electra plans to have a battery recycling demonstration plant this year, and it is only expected to cost less than C$3 million (US$2.4 million) to expand it to commercial production capacity in 2023.
Glencore will purchase the nickel and cobalt products on market-based terms until the end of 2024. Electra is also in talks with companies interested in buying the lithium, copper, and graphite produced at the recycling facility.
Electra is developing the recycling facility in a modular fashion that allows it to grow with demand.
The first module is expected to have the capacity to process 4,500 metric tons of black mass per year, which is equivalent to recycling batteries from more than 20,000 full electric vehicles.
To fully realize its vision, Electra intends to add nickel sulfate and battery precursor materials plants during the third and fourth phases of development at the battery park.
Electra says the synergies offered by collocating lithium-ion battery precursor manufacturing with the hydroelectric powered refining and recycling facilities in an area proximal to North American auto manufacturing centers will lower costs and shrink the carbon footprint by lessening the need to transport materials from one facility to another as they make their way into the batteries that power EVs.
"Globalization has created an electric vehicle supply chain that is too long, too costly and increasingly unreliable," Mell said last year. "Our automaker clients have a strong interest in greater localization of the upstream supply chain to achieve greater reliability, security of long-term supply, and a lower carbon footprint."