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By A.J. Roan
Metal Tech News 

Italy's Li-Cycle recycling hub is on track

Established framework for gradual production at Portovesme Metal Tech News – September 20, 2023


Last updated 9/19/2023 at 1:48pm

A sunny day over Glencore’s Portovesme metallurgical complex.

Glencore plc

Currently, Portovesme is the only Italian zinc and lead producer and is of national and strategic importance to the government. With around 1,250 employees permanently on-site, the facility currently produces upwards of 150,000 metric tons of zinc and 70,000 metric tons of lead a year.

After announcing its plans for a recycling hub in Portovesme, Italy, through a partnership with Glencore, Li-Cycle Holdings Corp. has followed up with the steps needed to begin establishing a centralized locale for battery recycling in Europe's Bel Paese.

"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 during the May announcement. "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.

You can read about the initial agreement between Li-Cycle and Glencore at Li-Cycle, Glencore to build Italian hub in the May 10, 2023 edition of Metal Tech News.

With everything else in place already, Li-Cycle has announced a two-phase approach for Hub.

This European Li-Cycle Hub is being designed to process 50,000 to 70,000 metric tons of black mass and produce up to 16,500 metric tons of lithium carbonate, 18,000 metric tons of contained nickel, and 2,250 metric tons of contained cobalt per year. These metrics are slated for the second stage of the two-phase plan – now expected as the final long-term plan and capacity for the complex.

To ease into production and remain efficient as far as capital is concerned, phase one has been implemented to process up to 11,000 metric tons of black mass annually and is expected to start operations in the first half of 2024.

During this initial phase, the Portovesme Hub will produce 1,500 metric tons of lithium carbonate, 3,000 metric tons of contained nickel, and 500 metric tons of cobalt per year.

"We are excited to accelerate our plans with Glencore to establish clean, post-processing refining capacity for recycled lithium-ion batteries in Europe," said Li-Cycle Executive Chair Tim Johnston. "Phase 1 of the Portovesme Hub is expected to come online at unprecedented speed and to expedite the pathway to create the largest source of sustainable recycled battery-grade products on the continent to support a circular lithium-ion battery supply chain. Li-Cycle continues to strengthen its first mover advantage in Europe and support our growing commercial customer base in qualifying for European Union regulations with our local, sustainable recycled content."

The black mass processed during both phases is expected to be supplied from Li-Cycle's European Spoke recycling network and Glencore's commercial network.

This strategic collaboration aims to support the creation of a local, closed-loop battery supply chain. Notably, Li-Cycle has recently commenced operations at its first European Spoke in Germany, the largest Spoke in the company's portfolio and one of the largest facilities of its kind on the European continent.

"The development of the Hub with Li-Cycle at Glencore's Portovesme site is progressing well, underpinned by strong endorsement from multiple internal and external stakeholders," said Global Head of Recycling at Glencore, Kunal Sinha. "The project, combined with our existing footprint in the primary supply, as well as recycling of battery metals, is a core tenet of our ambition to become the circularity partner of choice with Li-Cycle for the European battery and EV industry. Specifically, this multi-phase approach to the development of the Hub allows us to start to close the loop for battery materials in Europe as early as the first half of 2024, while we work towards designing and building Phase 2."

Li-Cycle and Glencore anticipate forming a 50-50 joint venture for the Portovesme Hub, which also contemplates competitive long-term financing from Glencore to fund Li-Cycle's share of the capital investment.

For the first phase, Li-Cycle will provide technical expertise and oversight, with Portovesme and other technical and operational experts from the wider Glencore group directing the build and operation.

In the meantime, a definitive feasibility study for the second phase is progressing well and is scheduled to be completed by mid-2024.

Subject to a final investment decision and receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals, the full-scale phase two Portovesme Hub is expected to advance to construction and begin commissioning in late 2026 to early 2027.


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