In a huge battery recycling milestone, Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has successfully recovered critical metals from spent lithium-ion batteries including lithium phosphate, nickel and cobalt.
In conjunction with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Lithium Australia has used it proprietary refining technology to generate 99% pure lithium phosphate, with lithium recoveries exceeding 85%.
Meanwhile, nickel and cobalt recoveries are estimated at 90%, with internal modelling revealing a concentrate suitable as feed for conventional processing.
During the trial, Lithium Australia’s partner Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd collected, shredded and separated spent batteries to create a mixed metal dust.
ANSTO then processed the dust to recover lithium phosphate, which was further refined using proprietary technology.
The refined lithium phosphate has been shipped to Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned VSPC pilot plant in Brisbane where it will converted into lithium-ferro-phosphate and tested in coin cell lithium-ion batteries produced at the plant.
“Successfully recovering a precursor of such high purity for the production of new lithium-ion batteries from material otherwise destined for landfill is a huge step forward for the battery industry,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.
“Lithium Australia, together with its partner Envirostream Australia, is investigating the commercial potential of this breakthrough,” he added.
Advancing the process
In addition to its lithium-ferro-phosphate material, Lithium Australia has undertaken commercial evaluation of generating a nickel and cobalt concentrate from spent batteries for re-use in new ones.
The company anticipates this is viable revenue stream with the advantage of providing ethically sourced cobalt.
“Right now, we’re in discussion with consumers of lithium, nickel and cobalt – both within Australia and overseas – and we see huge potential for a local battery recycling industry,” Mr Griffin said.
Other advantages to Lithium Australia’s recycling technology include promoting a sustainable lithium-ion battery industry.
Instead of being consigned to landfill, critical materials are extracted from spent batteries and reused – providing an ethical, local and stable battery material supply.
Additionally, Lithium Australia’s process for converting unconventional feedstock into a battery grade lithium material eliminates the need for current costly and energy-intensive processes that are currently used to produce lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide chemicals.