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Electra produces lithium from EV battery recycling trial

Electra Battery Materials Corporation recently announced that it has successfully recovered lithium, a critical mineral needed for the electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chain, in its black mass recycling trial being conducted at its refinery north of Toronto, Canada.


Electra produces lithium from EV battery recycling trial p
Image Credit – ShutterStock

The successful extraction and manufacture of a technical-grade lithium carbonate product on a plant-scale level confirms the effectiveness of Electra’s unique hydrometallurgical process and demonstrates the progress made in commissioning its larger refinery complex.

“Recovering lithium from black mass represents a potential game changer for Electra and the North American EV supply chain,” said Trent Mell, CEO of Electra Battery Materials. “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.”

Mr Mell added:

“Successfully demonstrating our lithium recovery process in a plant-scale environment supports our plans to commercialize our process with our industry partners and is a testament to efforts of Electra’s technical team.”

“Our refinery team, combined with our consulting engineering partners, achieved a significant milestone in proving up our hydrometallurgical process for treating black mass,” said Mark Trevisiol, Electra’s Vice President of Project Development. “We achieved these outstanding results in less than two years, going from bench-scale laboratory testing to plant scale production.”

The term “black mass” refers to the residual substance left over from shredded lithium-ion batteries after the casings have been removed. This material contains valuable elements, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, and graphite, that can be recycled to produce new batteries.

In North America, established battery recyclers have traditionally collected and shredded batteries, with resulting black mass material primarily processed through a pyrometallurgical smelting method that has a higher carbon footprint and lower metal recoveries compared to hydrometallurgical processes.

Recycling black mass will become an increasingly important aspect of the electric vehicle battery supply chain, as the demand for critical minerals continues to grow and the potential supply shortfall of metals like nickel and cobalt looms. According to McKinsey & Company data, the amount of available battery material for recycling is projected to increase by 20% annually through 2040.

In December 2022, Electra unveiled its black mass demo plant and was able to successfully extract various minerals, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, and graphite, using batch processing.

In light of the promising initial outcomes and expressed interest from potential commercial partners, Electra has decided to continue its black mass recovery and processing operations until June 2023, surpassing its original target of 75 tonnes.

The exact volume of material to be processed and recovered during this extended period will be determined in the following weeks. Electra has identified several sources of supply and is currently negotiating with vendors on the terms and conditions of the arrangement.

The retrieved material from Electra will be made available for purchase by external companies, who can further process and repurpose it for various applications.

About Electra Battery Materials

Electra is a processor of low-carbon, ethically-sourced battery materials. Currently commissioning North America’s only cobalt sulfate refinery, Electra is executing a multi-pronged strategy focused on onshoring the electric vehicle supply chain. Keys to its strategy are integrating black mass recycling and nickel sulfate production at Electra’s refinery located north of Toronto, advancing Iron Creek, its cobalt-copper exploration-stage project in the Idaho Cobalt Belt, and expanding cobalt sulfate processing into Bécancour, Quebec.

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