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Temiskaming refinery builder recovers lithium from waste batteries

Electra Battery Materials say customers showing interest in recycled material
Lithium carbonate produced in Electra’s black mass recycling trial (Company photo)

Electra Battery Materials reports a “potential game changer” in its demonstration recycling trials at its Temiskaming refinery.

The company and CEO Trent Mell announced they’ve successfully extracting lithium from its black mass recycling tests using a proprietary technology.

Black mass is the valuable metal material, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper and graphite, extracted from shredded and spent batteries. 

Electra doesn’t mechanically crush the batteries at its site but buys the powdery black mass material from suppliers. Black mass material can be recycled to produce new lithium-ion batteries.

Electra cranked up its demonstration plant in December and started processing material in batches, recovering lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, and graphite. 

The company said these trials will continue through June and beyond its initial processing target of 75 tonnes due to the results achieved to date and interest coming from potential customers. The amount of material to be processed and recovered will be determined in the coming weeks. 

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The recovered metals will be sold to third-party companies for additional processing and re-use in a number of applications, Electra said.

Electra said it is in discussions with “multiple” vendors of black mass.

Recycling is one aspect of a larger $800-million nickel and cobalt refinery complex Electra is creating at the former Yukon refinery located between the town of Cobalt and Temiskaming Shores. The refinery building is being upgraded and the facility is currently being expanded.

Electra is out to differentiate itself from other competing recycling companies by promoting its proprietary hydrometallurgical process over pyrometallurgical smelting process, which produces a higher carbon footprint.

In a statement, company CEO Trent Mell said a successfully demonstrating their lithium recovery process supports the case for a commercial-scale plant.

“Recycling lithium from expired batteries through hydrometallurgy lowers the carbon footprint of manufacturing electric vehicles and represents an important source of future supply for a commodity whose demand is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. From Electra’s perspective, it considerably strengthens the economics of our battery recycling strategy by providing another high-value product we can sell.”

The company said recycling black mass will become a feature of the EV battery supply chain given the strong demand for other critical minerals such as nickel and cobalt. They point out McKinsey & Company data show available battery material for recycling is expected to grow by 20 per cent per year through 2040.