WA-based technology company Neometals has announced a key step in its lithium-ion battery recycling efforts, with commissioning of a demonstration plant with its German joint venture partner. Its unique recycling process aims to recover cobalt, nickel, lithium and copper from spent batteries for reuse. Demonstration plant results will inform the joint venture’s decision to develop a commercial recycling plant.
ASX-listed battery mineral technology company Neometals has the hot electric vehicle battery recycling market in its sights with a start on commissioning a showcase lithium-ion battery recycling demonstration plant in Germany.
Western Australia-based Neometals is teaming with Germany’s SMS Group in a 50:50 joint venture known as Primobius to commission the plant, bringing together Neometals’ hydrometallurgical lithium-ion recycling technology and SMS Group’s engineering, plant construction and R&D industrialisation skills.
The recycling process aims to recover cobalt, nickel, lithium and copper from spent lithium-ion batteries for reuse. The demonstration plant is intended to show Primobius’ capability to provide a recycled product for potential customers and partners and to safely and sustainably dispose of hazardous waste from the batteries.
With an expected boom in electric vehicle uptake and increasing use of lithium-ion batteries in a range of products, disposal of spent batteries will be an increasingly challenging issue worldwide.
The commissioning announcement comes after Neometals poured significant resources over five years into development of the recycling technology, including running a comprehensive pilot trial. Primobius has continued progress towards commercialisation of the process.
The fully integrated demonstration plant is one of the elements to be evaluated in the joint venture’s decision on construction of a commercial lithium-ion battery recycling plant.
Neometals and SMS are co-funding the evaluation process that will also include a feasibility study and commercial negotiations around a supply of batteries for recycling and the resulting offtake product. The joint venture timeline anticipates the feasibility study will be completed by March 2022 and commercial scale integration could be achieved about 12 months after that.
Neometals Managing Director Chris Reed said: “The Primobius and SMS teams have done an exceptional job to keep the timeline tight through a challenging period of global COVID delays. This plant is a real showcase of German engineering and we look forward to proving our proprietary flowsheet at larger scale and to safely generate product samples promised to our commercial partners under the various commercial evaluation agreements that underpin our battery feedstock and product offtake strategies.”
The demonstration plant is located in a dedicated building at SMS’ premises in Hilchenbach, north of Frankfurt.
The trial schedule proposes commissioning and operation of a front-end shredding and beneficiation circuit as a first stage, followed by a back-end hydrometallurgical refining circuit. Construction of the front-end circuit is now finished, and the back-end refinery circuit is nearing completion.
Battery feedstock has been secured from electric vehicle and energy storage system manufacturers for the demonstration plant, which is permitted to operate at a rate of one tonne per day.
Neometals has previously announced the spin-off of its 100 per cent owned Mt Edwards nickel sulphide operation in the WA Goldfields to enable it to concentrate on its core battery recycling and vanadium extraction businesses.
Neometals is also funding evaluation of a 50:50 joint venture with Critical Metals to recover high-grade vanadium chemicals from the steelmaking process by Scandinavian steel maker group SSAB. Vanadium pentoxide is seen as an emerging cathode material for lithium-ion batteries.
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