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Monday, Feb 26, 2024
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.

Alternative Energy

Rock Tech Lithium and Electra Battery Materials collaborate on lithium battery recycling

Rock Tech plans to start material processing in 2026, with the supply increasing progressively over time

Rock Tech Lithium and Electra Battery Materials collaborate on lithium battery recycling
Current refinery configuration, to be used for large-scale battery recycling demonstration. Image via Electra Battery Materials Corporation.

Toronto-based Electra Battery Materials (NASDAQ: ELBM) (TSXV: ELBM) will supply recycled lithium from its refinery to Rock Tech Lithium (TSXV: RCK) to upgrade into battery-grade lithium.

The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in late November to process recycled lithium.

According to a press release, both companies consider this upgrading step essential to achieve the necessary quality and purity required for re-using in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries.

Rock Tech plans to start material processing in 2026, with the supply increasing progressively over time. Neither company has reached the commercial operating stage yet. Rock Tech is still working on becoming a lithium miner and processor in Ontario’s Lake Nipigon area.

Rock Tech and Electra will use their processing expertise to create a comprehensive, fully sustainable closed-loop service for recycling lithium-ion battery manufacturing scrap, end-of-life batteries and black mass.

Black mass comprises critical minerals extracted from crushed and shredded waste batteries.

“Our collaboration ensures that lithium recovered from the recycling of end-of-life batteries or battery manufacturing scrap is recovered, refined and returned to the battery value chain as battery-grade lithium product,” said Klaus Schmitz, Rock Tech’s COO.

“An efficient, environmentally friendly and truly closed recycling loop.”

Electra is presently constructing North America’s sole cobalt sulfate refinery in Temiskaming Shores, Ontario, as part of a multifaceted initiative to co-locate cobalt, nickel, manganese and black mass refining within the refining complex.

Electra is currently conducting tests on its proprietary hydrometallurgical process for recycling black mass on a plant scale, where they recover nickel-cobalt MHP, lithium carbonate, graphite and other commercial products.

Read more: Lithium South Development first production well installed at Hombre Muerto lithium project

Read more: Lithium South Development expands production goals, updates PEA on Hombre Muerto lithium project

Rock Tech expands into Europe

Rock Tech signed a similar supply agreement with Swiss lithium miner Arcore in late November to procure lithium mined from Bosnia-Herzegovina for the purpose of supplying a refining operation in Europe.

Rock Tech is in the early stages of constructing two lithium plants. The first is in Germany, and second in Northern Ontario. Recently, Rock Tech announced that the community of Red Rock, located on the north shore of Lake Superior, will be the leading site for its second converter plant. The company plans to begin production in Ontario in 2027.

In Temiskaming, Electra’s black mass recycling operation is in a trial phase as a small batch producer, at least until the end of this year.

It hasn’t had an easy road to get to this stage. Electra ran into some funding problems earlier this year and was forced to halt construction on the Temiskaming cobalt refinery until the company could secure USD$60 million from the government and private funding to finish it.

But the partnership with Rock Tech could provide alternative sources of expansion in Europe. The company could potentially license its black mass tech on the continent and explore the notion of collecting future battery recycling and lithium refining plants under one roof.

“Collaboration is crucial to create a closed loop for all critical minerals we recover in our black mass refining operation,” said Trent Mell, Electra’s CEO.

“Jointly with Rock Tech, we are excited to offer an end-to-end battery recycling solution specifically for the lithium market. The partnership is expected to generate an additional revenue stream for Electra, improve our service offering for our clients, and facilitate future growth.”

Read more: Lithium South Development updates leadership roster, appoints new director

Read more: Lithium South Development Increases Lithium Resource by 175% and begins well-drilling program at Argentina’s Hombre Muerto North

Battery metals market anticipates 10.5 per cent annual growth till 2030

There’s opportunity to lithium battery recycling.

Statistics firm Statista projects that the global demand for lithium-ion batteries will jump nearly seven fold, reaching 4.7 terawatt hours in 2030. Much of this growth can can be attributed to the increasing prevalence of electric vehicles, which use lithium-ion batteries for power.

The problem is that while lithium is in abundance right now, it is a finite resource and geographically concentrated over a number of different locations. At present, China dominates the lithium processing market, which has placed stress on western economies including the United States to find alternative means sourcing and processing the battery metals to meet environmental goals.

Part of that is through political means such as President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

The IRA offers a tax incentive carrot to battery metals producers operating in the United States and in friendly countries. This includes the usual big names in the lithium space, such as Albemarle Corporation (NYSE: ALB) and Livent Corporation (NYSE: LTHM), but also could extend to smaller companies like Rock Tech Lithium or Lithium South Development Corporation (TSXV: LIS) (OTCQB: LISMF) (Frankfurt: OGPQ).

However, another part of that is going to be in recycled batteries.

According to market analysis firm, Markets and Markets, the global battery recycling market is worth USD$26.9 billion in 2023 and is expected reach USD$54.3 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 10.5 per cent during the period.

The following companies, American Battery Technology Company (NASDAQ: ABAT), Vancouver-BC based RecycLiCo Battery Materials Inc. (TSXV: AMY) and Chinese materials giant Ganfeng Lithium Group Co., Ltd. (SHE: 002460) are actively engaged in the field of lithium battery recycling.

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Lithium South Development Corporation is a sponsor of Mugglehead news coverage

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