Electra finds buyer for recovered battery metals

Glencore AG will purchase the nickel and cobalt products produced by Electra Battery Materials Corporation at its planned battery recycling plant.

The plant is expected to come online in 2023, and the deal with Glencore extends through the end of 2024. It covers the 2023-2024 production of nickel and cobalt that Electra will produce from refining black mass feed generated from lithium-ion batteries.

Offtake contracts for lithium, copper and graphite are under discussion with other parties.

Demonstration plant

Electra plans to operate a battery recycling demonstration plant in 2022 using existing equipment at a cost of $3 million and commission the commercial plant in 2023. The hydrometallurgical refinery is located at Temiskaming Shores, about 500 kilometres north of Toronto

The company says the refinery is “expected to provide higher yields at a lower cost and at significantly lower energy intensity, compared to traditional facilities”.

“The demand for recycled battery materials is very strong but there is limited refining capacity in North America today to treat black mass with a hydrometallurgical process – the preferred route due to high metal recoveries and near zero GHG emissions,” said Trent Mell, CEO.

“Electra expects to be one of the first such refiners, leveraging its permitted site north of Toronto and approximately C$100 million of existing infrastructure and equipment. By securing an offtake for our recycled nickel and cobalt production at market rates, we can now continue to focus on construction and operational readiness for Phase 1 and Phase 2.”

Four-phase development

Electra’s battery recycling strategy is the second of a four-phase development plan for an integrated battery materials park in Canada that will recycle lithium batteries, produce cobalt and nickel from primary feeds and then send the material to a battery cathode precursor manufacturer that would co-locate within the same industrial park.

Commissioning of North America’s only cobalt sulfate refinery is the first phase, which is scheduled to be commissioned in December 2022.

Electra’s strategy is to partner with third parties who collect spent batteries and shred the battery cell electrodes into a metal-rich powder known as “black mass.” Electra has established relationships with more than 30 black mass producers and expects to work with up to four providers to supply feed to its refinery.

The first recycling module (Module 1) is expected to produce more than 2,000 tonnes a year of mixed hydroxide precipitate from approximately 4,500 tonnes of black mass. This is the equivalent to recycling batteries from more than 20,000 full electric vehicles per year, or 80,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Module 1 is one of several modules expected to be constructed over the next decade, as Electra’s recycling capacity grows with market demand for processing of black mass.

Glencore is already one of the largest processors of black mass, treating a large portion of black mass produced in North America and Europe at its Sudbury smelter.