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Major fire at China’s leading battery recycling plant

A big fire at a plant belonging to Tesla’s battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology (CAT) in China has resulted in one fatality although the company maintains the impact on its overall operations is ‘limited’.

The cause of the blaze at the Brunp Recycling Technology facility, a subsidiary of CAT, is said to be aluminium foil igniting in the waste disposal unit. No less than 186 firefighters were called to the scene on Thursday evening to douse the flames, which injured twenty workers.

The recycling plant at Ningxiang is capable of producing 15 000 tonnes of precursor materials annually for manufacturers such as Tesla by recovering lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt from used batteries. This represents around 20% of Brunp’s overall output capacity of 80 000 tonnes as it operates other recycling plants across China.

Brunp has become one of China’s biggest battery recyclers, earning Yuan 5 billion (EUR 630 million) in 2019. Company officials say it is unclear if production of electric cars will be affected in the coming months.

Argus Metals says higher spot demand from the power battery industry in the run-up to the lunar New Year holidays in mid-February ‘bolstered prices for many battery materials’.

Its analysts report 99.8% grade cobalt metal at 270-295 yuan/kg ($42.49-44.81/kg) ex-works on 10 January, up from Yn 265-280/kg on 5 January. Meanwhile, prices for 99.5% grade lithium carbonate were reported to be higher at Yn 51 000-56 000/tonne ex-works, up by Yn 2 000/tonne over the same period.

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