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Temiskaming refinery owner gets a technical green light to get into battery recycling

Electra Battery Materials intends to launch its battery recycling business in mid-2022
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(Electra Battery Materials photo)

Electra Battery Materials wants to get into recycling spent batteries at the refinery it's currently refitting in the Temiskaming area.

Now, the Toronto company has received the technical confirmation to press ahead with one facet of its ambitious, multi-phased, battery metals park proposed for northeastern Ontario. 

Electra, formerly known as First Cobalt, announced "positive results" from the engineering studies and metallurgical test work for lithium-ion battery recycling.

Battery recycling, and recovering the valuable 'black mass' material, is the second part of Electra's four-phase strategy to create North America's first and only battery materials park. 

At the once-shuttered refinery the company acquired in 2018, they plan to upgrade and expand it to produce battery-grade nickel and cobalt, battery recycling, as well as manufacturing some of the precursor material needed by the electric vehicle industry.

The park will be designed to supply raw materials for over 1.5 million electric vehicles per year. The facilities will be scalable to expand capacity as the lithium-ion industry grows.

With the recycling aspect of the business, they plan to grow it in a "staged, modular fashion," by initially targeting 'black mass' from consumer electronics before pursuing primary battery scrap material from North American electric vehicle cell manufacturers.

The company plans to launch the recycling business by mid-2022.

In its news release, Electra said it has developed a factory flowsheet to recover metals including lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper and graphite, all the key elements in the batteries.

Engineering studies confirmed that the company's existing refinery complex has the infrastructure, scale and equipment to process a bulk sample of material by mid-2022. The capital cost to build a demonstration plant is under US$3 million.

Electra said it's been contacted by more than 20 black mass producers in North America and around the world who are interested in selling them their feed material.

"At present, there is no industrial scale hydrometallurgical facility in North America to recycle the black mass material that is recovered when lithium-ion batteries are dismantled and shredded," said CEO Trent Mell in a statement.

"With our existing facility in Canada, Electra can be the first recycler to establish a closed-loop supply of battery materials, making electric vehicles more sustainable and more reliant on domestic material. Our first concrete steps on that path will be a commercial scale demonstration plant in 2022 utilizing existing facilities and equipment."

Mark Trevisiol, Electra's vice-president of project development, added:

"We plan to demonstrate the ability to make products containing nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium and graphite all from recycled lithium-ion batteries. This would be the first industrial-scale operation in North America to recover this list of recycled products for resale.

"Our first circuit will treat black mass from suppliers that we have identified as potential partners and can then be expanded to treat battery scrap from CAM and cell manufacturers."