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Lithium Australia to double battery shredder's capacity after 18.9% acquisition

Lithium Australia NL plans to help double Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd.'s lithium-ion battery shredding capacity after acquiring an 18.9% stake in the company, according to Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin, who said the aim is to provide feed for Lithium Australia's recently recommissioned cathode pilot plant in Brisbane, Australia.

Perth-based Lithium Australia announced April 4 that it would invest A$600,000 in Envirostream, Australia's only battery shredding company, primarily to expand the Victoria-based shredding plant's capacity, potentially creating job opportunities in the battery industry that have not been available in the country until now.

Griffin said in an interview that the investment was primarily aimed at doubling Envirostream's 450-tonne-per-annum plant capacity by the end of 2019. He also said the two companies are working on improving the battery collection process across Australia.

Through a partnership with Murdoch University in Perth, Lithium Australia is also close to finalizing a hydrometallurgical flow sheet to recover the metals from the batteries. Running metals through a furnace would address a challenge faced globally of how to deal with the large amounts of metal lost when extracting them from batteries, Griffin added.

SNL Image

Lithium Australia Managing
Director Adrian Griffin

Source: Lithium Australia

While he said the cobalt provides the biggest value of all the industrial materials in lithium-ion batteries, "We take the view that if you recover the metals, you should recover them all."

Griffin estimated that about 3.6 million tonnes of lithium carbonate are needed to generate the 1.5 terawatt hours of capacity to be produced by the 70 planned battery "gigafactories" globally by 2028.

The world's planned gigafactory capacity has increased to 1.7 terawatt hours by 2028, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Griffin believes that the way to feed them adequately is to recycle lithium-ion batteries.

Australia's government set up about 200 collection points for used batteries. Lithium Australia's partnership with Envirostream could increase the number substantially to feed the Victorian plant and source feed from outside the country. About 90% of lithium-ion batteries end up in landfills around the world, compared with about 97% in Australia, Griffin said.

In April 2018, Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation predicted that the country's lithium-ion battery waste would increase from 3,300 tonnes in 2016 to between 100,000 and 188,000 tonnes by 2036.

Battery waste has been piling up globally, particularly in the U.S. after China changed its waste management policy in January and no longer takes other countries' waste.

For that reason, Envirostream's experience in battery collection logistics helps address battery recycling efforts not just in Australia, but also globally, Griffin said.

SNL Image

Pulverized batteries

Source: Envirostream Australia

Glencore PLC has the world's largest processing operation of electronic scrap containing copper and precious metals at the Horne smelter in Quebec, where it also processes copper anodes that are converted into 99.99% copper cathodes at its CCR refinery.

Some recycled battery processing is also carried out in Brussels, and Neometals Ltd. launched its battery shredding plant in Canada in February.

Meanwhile, Lithium Australia has been in talks with the German government. The company kicked off a pre-feasibility study in March for its Sadisdorf lithium-tin deposit in Saxony, Germany, to evaluate producing cathode powders and lithium iron phosphate from mica feed material.