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Li-Cycle, Glencore to build Italian Hub

Preexisting Portovesme complex to become central recycler Metal Tech News - May 10, 2023

Li-Cycle Holdings Corp. announced the signing of a letter of intent with Glencore plc, one of the world's largest natural resource companies, to jointly study the feasibility and eventual development of one of Li-Cycle's Hub recycling facilities in Portovesme, Italy.

"The planned Portovesme Hub is a landmark project for Europe's battery recycling industry and is expected to be the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium on the continent," said Li-Cycle Executive Chair Tim Johnston. "We are excited to expand our global strategic partnership with Glencore and build on our learnings from the Rochester Hub in support of the rapid growth of the lithium-ion battery ecosystem in an environmentally friendly manner."

Already established in Sardinia, Italy, the Portovesme metallurgical complex consists of a lead-zinc smelter and hydrometallurgical facility, which first began operations in 1929. With the infrastructure already in place, including access to a port, utilities, processing equipment from the hydrometallurgical plant, and an experienced workforce, a future Li-Cycle Hub is practically ready-made for the recycling of the critical materials needed for the carbon-free future.

"Li-Cycle's expansion into Europe aligns with our modular rollout strategy, as we replicate our successful North American model, which mirrors customer demand and commercial contracting with a strategically located pre-processing Spoke network and centralized post-processing Hub," said Johnston.

As part of the LOI, Li-Cycle and Glencore will jointly begin work on a definitive feasibility study for this project within the next 60 days. This comprehensive economic and engineering study is expected to be completed by mid-2024.

Subject to a final investment decision by the parties, the project will then proceed to construction and commissioning of the Portovesme Hub, expected in late 2026 or early 2027.

"This project, combined with our existing footprint in primary supply as well as recycling of battery metals, underpins our ambition to become the circularity partner of choice for the European battery and EV industry," said Glencore's Global Head of Recycling, Kunal Sinha. "This also marks a significant step in our collaboration with Li-Cycle, a preferred partner in the lithium-ion battery recycling space."

Aiming to form a 50-50 joint venture to repurpose the existing metallurgical complex, which Glencore already owns, both companies expect the established infrastructure to enable a cost-efficient and expedited development plan of a future Portovesme Hub.

The project also contemplates competitive long-term financing from Glencore to fund Li-Cycle's share of the capital investment.

Once operational, the Portovesme Hub is expected to have a processing capacity of up to 50,000 to 70,000 metric tons of black mass annually, or the equivalent of up to 36 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries.

Black mass is a powder containing nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese, lithium, and graphite that is produced by crushing lithium-ion battery electrodes during the recycling process.

The black mass processed at the future hub is anticipated to be supplied from Li-Cycle's growing spoke network in Europe and through Glencore's already vast commercial network. As the first facility of its kind and scale to come online in the European Union, both companies foresee the future lithium battery recycling hub enabling the EU to move one step closer to closing the loop on manufacturing scrap, as well as end-of-life batteries, fully within the country.

"Establishing a Hub through the re-purposing of our Portovesme site, which could become the first Glencore asset to produce battery-grade lithium, will enable us to truly close the loop for our European OEM and gigafactory customers across all aspects of the supply chain," said Sinha. "It will shorten delivery times, reduce emissions by minimising the distance of the freight routes and support Italy and Europe's ambitions to be a global leader in the circular economy."


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