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Suez and Eramet join hands to power e-cars of the future

Mining and metallurgy company Eramet is collaborating with Suez on a lithium-ion battery project in France. The partners intend to develop an industrial site for the treatment of electric car batteries.

The partnership, known as the ReLieVe project, involves an upstream dismantling plant and a downstream metal extraction plant at Dunkirk. The final investment decision in the upstream plant will be made by the end of this year, with start-up planned for 2025, and the end of 2024 for the downstream plant with a target of 2027.

The upstream facility will process 50 000 tonnes of battery modules per year, the equivalent of 200 000 electric car batteries. Meanwhile, the downstream hydrometallurgy plant will extract and refine the nickel, cobalt and lithium contained in the black mass. These will serve the production of new batteries.

The goal is to boost the use of recycled strategic metals from spent automotive batteries. Suez and Eramet underline the importance of securing the metal supplies needed for Europe’s energy transition. European regulations require that 90% of cobalt, copper and nickel and 50% of lithium be recycled by 2027, and 95% of cobalt, copper and nickel and 80% of lithium by 2031.

‘Battery valley’

The development builds on a pilot plant established in Trappes near Paris in 2019, next to Eramet’s R&D centre, which was instrumental to the ReLieVe R&D project. The partners say the Dunkirk location is at the heart of a ‘battery valley’ emerging in the Hauts de France region where several battery production plants are due to open in the coming years.

Eramet has received grants from the European Union and BPI totalling EUR 80 million to help finance pre-industrialisation studies, plant construction and operating costs for the first 10 years.

Ceo Christel Bories, says: ‘The progress of the ReLieVe project confirms our desire to move forward with the creation of a battery recycling sector in France. New “urban” mines are being set up on European territory: as a responsible mining player, our role is to develop this resource and give it a second life, with a considerably reduced environmental impact.’

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