Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT) is restructuring its asset base in the drive towards sustainability and is considering a public float for Melbourne-based battery recycler Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd.
This plan follows LIT this month increasing its equity in Envirostream to 23.9% and acknowledges the growing importance the company places on recycling of spent batteries.
Complete battery recycling
Combining the recycling resources of both companies will form the only recycling entity in Australia able to not only collect, sort, shred and separate the components of spent batteries but also supply the technology required to recover all the energy metals they contain.
This process provides for the supply of a value-added product or for direct feed for conversion into cathode active materials.
LIT managing director Adrian Griffin said, “Our plan to create greater opportunities for shareholders and potential investors began with increasing our equity in Envirostream.
“We see the recycling of spent batteries as a significant opportunity, given the increased legislative and community focus on environmental responsibility.
“Envirostream’s existing business model and Lithium Australia's metal extraction technologies could exist in perfect symbiosis, and we are planning for a public listing.”
LIT expects that the restructured Envirostream/LIT recycling business unit will be investment-ready in the first half of 2020.
Four business units
This falls into one of the four business units that LIT has established as part of the restructure:
- Recycling – processing of spent batteries to re-generate battery materials;
- Lithium chemicals – primary extraction technologies developed to generate high-purity lithium chemicals from waste material;
- Batteries – production of cathode powders and battery-cell manufacture/testing in conjunction with DLG Battery Co (China) (DLG); and
- Raw materials – exploration and resources, including the Sadisdorf lithium/tin project in Saxony, Germany, at the doorstep of the European battery industry.
Complete supply chain
LIT’s technologies are designed to facilitate a seamless progression from one business unit to another.
They facilitate the conversion of materials such as mine waste or spent batteries into lithium phosphate (LP), then battery cathode materials and, ultimately, lithium-ferrophosphate (LFP) batteries, without the need to produce lithium hydroxide or carbonate as an intermediate step in the process.
Significantly, most of these production cycles have already been achieved at pilot scale.
Griffin said, “Meanwhile, other company business units are approaching commercialisation and, as they do, we will adopt a similar approach in the interests of our shareholders.”
LFP cathode powders created
With the battery business unit, LIT, through its wholly-owned subsidiary VSPC Ltd, has created LFP cathode powders from mine waste and recycled batteries on a pilot scale.
These LFP powders are being incorporated into commercial-format 18650 coin-cell lithium-ion batteries at DLG’s plant in China.
LIT is finalising its pre-feasibility studies into the production of LFP cathode powder and, as part of that study, is mounting a trade delegation to China in early November 2019.
There, the company will assess opportunities to partner with existing Chinese cathode-powder producers, with a view to utilising existing plant and infrastructure for a faster and lower-capital pathway to commercialisation.
Meanwhile, LIT and DLG have incorporated Soluna Australia Pty Ltd aiming to supply battery products into the energy storage industry nationally with a focus on fringe-of-grid and off-grid applications.
Legal formalities should be completed soon and staff recruitment has commenced.
Revising ore body model
LIT is revising the ore body model for its Sadisdorf lithium/tin deposit in Germany while the company is also in discussions with third parties regarding their involvement in the exploration and assessment of a number of its Western Australian exploration assets.
Finally, there is potential for application of LIT’s LieNA® process for the recovery of lithium from spodumene to the fine-spodumene tailings (lithium alumino silicate) discharged by producers of lithium concentrates.
The company is discussing the potential to commercialise this process with a number of lithium concentrate producers, in a bid to improve lithium recovery and utilisation in existing spodumene processing operations.