Neometals Hits Go Button On Lithium Battery Recycling Plant

ASX-listed Neometals’ and its joint venture partner, mega German engineering firm, SMS Group have made the decision to fund a commercial scale lithium-ion battery recycling plant in Germany. The joint venture company is owned 50:50 by Neometals and SMS Group and operated by joint venture vehicle Primobius GmbH. The partners have developed an innovative proprietary process that focuses on recovering valuable metal materials from spent lithium-ion batteries.
Primobius has already built and has been operating the front-end of a shredding and beneficiation demonstration plant, which was designed to showcase its capability to provide a recycled product for potential customers and to dispose of hazardous waste safely and sustainably from spent lithium batteries.
Primobius will now expand the demonstration plant in Germany and build up operational capacity to provide a 10 tonne per day battery disposal recycling service by early 2022.
Based at SMS’s operations in Hilchenbach, Germany, the innovative recycling plant will specifically aim to remove metal electrodes, plastic separators and casings and produce battery cathode and anode materials for refining. The recycling facility will comprise a fully constructed ‘front-end’ shredding and beneficiation circuit and a ‘back-end’ hydrometallurgical refining circuit which is progressing through mechanical and electrical installation.
Stage one commissioning of the pilot plant that will now be expanded included charging up the front-end circuit to process both dummy and charged electric vehicle batteries to generate plastic, steel and foil product streams together with intermediate active “black mass”. To date the pilot facility has produced around 1.5 tonnes of black mass, which will be refined in stage two.
The company says the decision to fund the commercial shredding operations is a positive move to keep pace with a rapidly developing lithium battery industry that is searching for instant sustainable recycling solutions. SMS and Neometals have now approved funding to establish a dedicated commercial and operational team to procure and install new equipment, modify the currently installed shredder circuit and to lease additional areas from SMS.
The partners say Primobius is also in advanced commercial negotiations with third parties to secure “feed” via disposal service agreements for the commercial scale plant.
The JV vehicle is also in discussions with potential customers for the sale of black mass, metal foils, steel and plastics produced from the 10 tonne per day shredder plant. Importantly, Neometals says the decision to fund the commercial scale plant will stand regardless of the outcome of Primobius’ discussions.
Neometals’ Managing Director Chris Reed said: “We are excited to herald the entry of Primobius into the commercial European battery recycling landscape. The funding approval is an agile response by the JV shareholders to strong demand for the safe disposal of growing volumes of lithium-ion batteries arising from warranty returns and at end-of-lie”.
“As well as being a showcase for potential customers and partners, the facility will provide a valuable training ground for the operations team and will support continuous process improvement ahead of the next scale up to a 50tpd operation”
Neometals points to the scale and speed of the electrification of automobiles and the significant uptick renewables as an energy source to suggest it is entering the right business at the right time.
It says the sheer size of global investment funds that are looking to support enablers of decarbonisation “steel our resolve for Primobius to become the pre-eminent recycler in the western world.”
Neometals shares sky-rocketed recently after news of its successful trials on its other project that is focussed on vanadium recoveries. With the inevitable boom in electric vehicle uptake due to climate change, whether perceived or real and the increasing use of lithium-ion batteries in a range of products, the disposal of spent batteries will no doubt be an increasingly lucrative pursuit around the globe and Neometals is well positioned to lead the pack.
The JV’s “Shredder Plant 1” will generate early revenues from the sale of intermediate active materials known as “black mass” and set a market reference for operational capability.