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Lithium Australia turns battery waste into supply stream for production of new LIBs

The company has demonstrated its ability to create a closed battery production cycle by regenerating cathode active battery materials from waste battery materials.

Lithium Australia NL - Lithium Australia turns battery waste into supply stream for production of new LIBs
LIT is investigating the commercial potential of its breakthrough

Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT) has established the potential for a new supply stream in recycled battery products by developing processes to recover metals from spent lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).

Through this work, the company is demonstrating its ability to create a closed battery production cycle by regenerating cathode active battery materials from waste battery materials.

Developing a local industry to recover battery metals will pave the way for more sustainable use and disposal of LIBs.

Further, such recycling will promote the delivery of ethically sourced battery materials.

Critical metals recovered

Test work undertaken with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), including the proprietary refining technology developed by Lithium Australia has recovered critical battery metals.

Based on the company’s internal process modelling, the technologies generate:

  • Lithium phosphate (LP) of 99.9% purity, with expected lithium recoveries of greater than 85%; and
  • Overall process recoveries for nickel and cobalt of greater than 90%.

Complete recycling package

The company’s managing director Adrian Griffin said, “Successfully recovering a precursor of such high purity for the production of new LIBs from material otherwise destined for landfill is a huge step forward for the battery industry.

“Lithium Australia, together with its partner Envirostream Australia, is investigating the commercial potential of this breakthrough.”

Using its proprietary LP refining process, the company aims to produce high-purity LP as a precursor for production of cathode materials.

In addition, commercial investigation by Lithium Australia has confirmed the potential to develop a nickel/cobalt concentrate as an alternate feed source for conventional refining.

Lithium Australia believes that establishing a supply stream based on recycled battery products will:

  • Facilitate LIB sustainability;
  • Avoid batteries being consigned to landfill;
  • Pave the way for the re-birthing of battery materials, and
  • Provide an ethical source of battery materials, cobalt in particular.

Better battery re-birthing

Optimisation of the company's proprietary LP refining technology for the generation of LIB cathode precursors has exceeded quality requirements for their incorporation into cathode active materials.

Lithium Australia's ability to recover and refine the lithium in spent LIBs puts it in a unique position, since few current commercial recycling processes do this.

Rather, the lithium is generally discharged to flue gas or slag during smelting processes.

LIT’s process is based on lower heat inputs and retention of the lithium which is recovered hydrometallurgically.

The spent batteries the company employed during process development were collected, shredded and separated by Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd, of which Lithium Australia owns 18.9%.

Subsequent physical processing of those spent battery materials recovered a mixed metal dust (MMD).

The MMD was then processed by ANSTO and the lithium recovered as LP, which was further refined using a proprietary hydrometallurgical extraction and purifying process.

The refined LP generated at ANSTO has been shipped to Lithium Australia’s VSPC cathode material pilot plant in Brisbane, Australia.

There, it will be converted to lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) for testing in coin-cell LIBs manufactured at the plant.

Potential for local industry

Significantly, Lithium Australia’s combined flow sheet simplifies the steps required to transition from lithium materials to batteries without the need for a costly and energy-intensive roasting process.

Griffin said, “Right now we're in discussion with consumers of lithium, nickel and cobalt – both within Australia and overseas – and we see huge potential for a local battery recycling industry.”

The company intends to rebirth the lithium from spent LIBs by incorporating it into new LFP batteries.

In addition, LIT plans to sell the nickel and cobalt recovered from those same spent LIBs to offtakers for further refining.

Quick facts: Lithium Australia NL

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ASX:LIT
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Market Cap: $19.23 m
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