Neometals begins lithium battery recycling pilot

Tuesday, 12 February, 2019

Neometals begins lithium battery recycling pilot

Perth-based Neometals has announced the successful commissioning of stage 1 of its lithium‐ion battery (LIB) recycling pilot plant in Canada. SGS Canada (SGS) was awarded the contracts to construct and operate the pilot in its fully accredited Lakefield facility. The SGS Lakefield facility is recognised worldwide for housing pre‐eminent expertise in the development, optimisation and piloting of mineral processing and chemical extraction processes.

SGS has been engaged by Neometals to undertake pilot front‐end feed preparation (shredding, removal of metal casings and plastics — stage 1) and the subsequent hydrometallurgical processing and refining stage to deliver high‐purity battery materials for market qualification (stage 2).

The pilot is intended to demonstrate and showcase Neometals’ mixed-feed flowsheet, which can accommodate a variety of LIB types from multiple sources — including consumer electronics, electric vehicle batteries and the emerging stationary storage sector. The pilot aims to verify assumptions made at bench scale, generate marketing samples of products and provide essential data required for a front‐end engineering design study (FEED). The proposed FEED study will support a subsequent feasibility study and enable consideration of an investment decision on a commercial plant.

“We are delighted to see our battery recycling project back on track,” said Neometals Managing Director Chris Reed. “The commissioning of the pilot represents a significant milestone and marks the culmination of extensive research and development into a flowsheet to process multiple battery chemistries, from consumer electronics to electric vehicle applications.

“With ever increasing volumes of commercial LIBs reaching their end of life, we are focused on proving at scale, then qualifying our scalable and modular recycling solution with industry as early as possible. The pilot will serve as a showcase facility for potential partners as well as provide strong independent data for future engineering and financial studies.”

Despite regions like the European Union being heavily regulated under battery recycling compliance schemes, it is estimated that only approximately 5% of LIBs are currently recycled globally. Worldwide regulation is however tightening at a very fast pace. Regulations coupled with corporate requirements for ethical sourcing and disposal of LIBs has created a considerable opportunity for Neometals to recover critical and non‐renewable resources while reducing environmental impacts associated with battery disposal.

Neometals has developed a process flowsheet to recover more than 90% of all battery materials (plus recycle water and minimise plastic and graphite waste) from targeted end-of-life LIBs that could otherwise find their way to landfill or inefficient base metal recovery circuits. Neometals’ process flowsheet targets the recovery of cobalt from consumer electronic batteries (devices with lithium cobalt oxide cathodes) as well as nickel‐rich EV and stationary storage battery chemistries (lithium‐nickel-manganese‐cobalt cathodes). This mixed-feed flowsheet is the subject of the pilot.

A FEED study is planned to follow the pilot and precede an economic feasibility study to give Neometals a commercial handle on approximately 80% of costs at an early development stage. Having commercially relevant data to commence commercial discussions is seen as the most prudent approach with potential partners.

Neometals also owns a 13.8% stake in the Mt Marion lithium mine near Kalgoorlie (subject to sale), which operates one of the world’s biggest lithium concentrators. Neometals holds an offtake option, which forms the backbone to its fully integrated lithium business aspirations which include a Lithium Hydroxide Refinery and Lithium-ion Battery Recycling process. The 100%‐owned Barrambie Titanium‐Vanadium Project in WA’s Mid West is one of the world’s highest‐grade hard‐rock titanium/vanadium deposits.

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