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Finnish initiative to solve critical metals scarcity

Chemical giant BASF, energy supplier Fortum and mining group Nornickel plan to establish a battery recycling network to serve the electric vehicle market. The goal is to create a closed loop for the reuse of the critical metals contained in used batteries.

By recycling valuable metals from lithium-ion batteries, the trio wants to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing the batteries. The recovered raw materials will supplement the supply of cobalt, nickel and other critical metals from primary sources.

Through its earlier acquisition of Crisolteq, Fortum managed to ‘increase the recovery rate of recyclable materials in lithium-ion batteries from 50 to over 80%’. Meanwhile, BASF is building its first site for the production of cathode materials for the European automotive market in Harjavalta, Finland. The Russian miner Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) operates a refinery nearby.

In a letter of intent from the partners,BASF says it will strive to use recycled materials from the processes developed by the other two companies as part of the cooperation at the Harjavalta plant. They want to ensure that the recycling process uses electricity from renewable sources.

‘The combination of battery materials production and recycling enables the circular economy by closing the loop,’ says Tim Ingle, vice president for precious metals refining, chemicals and battery recycling at BASF. ‘We are focused on bringing solutions for high energy density cathode active materials and high-efficiency lithium extraction for battery recycling.’

He notes that BASF’s investment in the Finnish plant is part of a multi-stage investment plan worth EUR 400 million that the company announced in 2017.

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