Lithium Australia’s (ASX: LIT) 74%-owned Envirostream has produced its first mixed metal dust from its recently expanded 3,000 tonne per annum lithium-ion battery recycling plant, with the dust to be shipped imminently to SungEel in South Korea for refining into chemicals that will be incorporated in new batteries.
According to Lithium Australia, Envirostream is the only company in Australia that has the integrated capacity to collect, sort, shred and separate all components of spent lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium Australia said this makes Envirostream’s capabilities a “perfect fit” for its own proprietary lithium processing and battery expertise.
Envirostream’s plant is IOS 14001-accredited and uses its technology to recover about 95% of the materials from spent batteries including alkaline and nickel-metal hydrides in addition to lithium-ion formulas.
In recycling spent lithium-ion batteries, Envirostream generates a mixed metal dust containing cobalt, nickel, lithium and carbon, which are then used by SungEel for refinement and incorporation new batteries.
Envirostream also recovers scrap steel, copper and aluminium from the spent lithium-ion batteries and Lithium Australia noted sales of this material would also begin this month.
“The processing of spent batteries not only improves the sustainability of the battery industry but also prevents undesirable materials going to landfill, which reduces the potential for groundwater contamination,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin explained.
“I applaud the Victorian Government for banning such material from landfill – hopefully other jurisdictions will soon follow suite.”
“We’re proud to be part of an environmental solution that offers every Australian the opportunity to recycle their spent batteries,” Mr Griffin said.
Future need for lithium remains strong
At Lithium Australia’s AGM, chairman George Bauk re-iterated the company’s belief the future for lithium remained strong.
“Recent variations in the price of spodumene concentrate are no different from those experienced for other commodities during differing cycles of supply and demand,” he explained.
He added the ongoing push for energy storage, innovation and electronic products showed “no signs of diminishing”.
Commenting on Lithium Australia’s strategy to produce a reliable and sustainable supply of battery chemicals while also reducing environmental pressure, Mr Bauk said recycling would eventually become the preferred source of supply as people take custodianship for the planet.
Additionally, mine output alone would not be enough to meet legislative requirements for the electric vehicle industry, with current lithium carbonate equivalent production sitting at about 300,000tpa and predicted to grow 15% annually.
Mr Bauk estimates the legislative commitments in the electric vehicle space would require 3.5Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent annually by 2030 to power these vehicles.
As the company pursues its recycling and battery goals, Mr Baulk said Lithium Australia was targeting the production of cathode material on a commercial basis for 2020.
He added the company would also look to secure funding to commercialise its proprietary LieNa and SiLeach processing technologies and recycling infrastructure.