United States – American Manganese Inc. plans to construct a hydrometallurgical plant able to recycle up to 4000 tons of cobalt from spent lithium-ion batteries each year with a market value of over US$ 230 million. Scheduled to become operational in early 2018, the pilot plant will serve to prove ‘continuous recovery’ of cathode material and the potential to design a industrial-scale recycling facility.
AMI has yet to select a location for the plant, but indicates it will be situated near a manufacturing hub of electronic vehicle batteries. The US company also intends to recycle other valuable cathode metals such as nickel, aluminium, lithium and manganese from the various cathode chemistries.
The company is already ‘successful’ in producing rechargeable lithium-ion cobalt and lithium nickel manganese button cell batteries from its 100% recycled cathode material thanks to AMI’s patent-pending process, says Larry Reaugh, president and ceo of American Manganese Inc.
He emphasises that recycling unused cathodes presents a ‘huge’ business opportunity considering as much as 10% of manufactured lithium-ion battery cathodes are rejected for use.
AMI recently posted this month’s monetary values (per 500 kg) of the metals recovered from electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries. These are US$ 5,947.00 for lithium cobalt; US$ 2,347.00 for nickel manganese cobalt; and US$ 1,585.00 for nickel cobalt aluminium.
Reaugh points out that the ‘significant increase’ in post-consumer electric vehicle battery value is due to the increase in the price of cobalt from US$ 35.02 to US$ 58.50 per kg over the past six months. ‘Cobalt is currently under severe supply side pressure, and is expected to remain undersupplied,’ he notes.
The ceo cites 2015 figures from the Cobalt Development Institute that indicate the battery industry consumed 41% of global cobalt supply that year. He expects the usage of this metal to surge further – to over 65% – in the next ten years.
‘With such a significant increase in anticipated demand, recycling is poised to be an important part of the supply solution to the emerging cobalt shortage,’ Reaugh remarks.
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