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First Cobalt says lithium, nickel, copper recovered in EV battery recycling test


Company extracted metals from 'black mass' EV battery product

Looking to leverage existing operating permits for large-scale EV battery recycling

First Cobalt has successfully extracted nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese, lithium and graphite from a "black mass" product recovered from recycled batteries, demonstrating its ability to recycle lithium-ion batteries, the company said July 22.

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Black mass, which represents the main chemical composition of the battery, is obtained after removal of the mechanical housing of the battery, according to the company.

Following the success with testing, work is currently underway to leverage the company's existing operating permits, flow sheets and equipment at its Canadian hydrometallurgical refinery to become the first facility to recycle battery materials on a large scale for reintroduction into the electric vehicle battery supply chain, First Cobalt said.

To date there is no operating facility in North America that can recover each of nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium, graphite and manganese from black mass on a large scale, continuous production basis, it said.

First Cobalt's refinery in Canada has existing refining capabilities -- size and scale -- to produce separate products containing nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese. With flow sheet modifications, recovery of lithium and graphite can also be achieved, it said.

First Cobalt has retained a global engineering firm to study the leaching of black mass within the existing refinery to produce nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese products using the existing flowsheet and to produce lithium and graphite products with recommended modifications, the company said.

Completion of the engineering study is expected in the fourth quarter.

"Upon successful completion of the study, the company intends to process black mass at the refinery facility on a pilot basis," it said.

The company's near-term strategy is focused on leveraging its existing processing facilities to process black mass and recover payable metals, however longer term the company said it intends to produce "battery grade" materials for reintroduction into the electric vehicle supply chain.

"Demonstrating our ability to recycle lithium-ion batteries is an important step in our journey to be the most sustainable producer of battery materials," First Cobalt CEO Trent Mell said in a statement. "There are many producers of black mass in the western world but few environmentally friendly options to then refine the product into battery grade material given the capital expenditure required and the permitting timeline associated with building a hydrometallurgical facility such as ours. We intend to capitalize on this first-mover advantage and leverage our position as an ultra-low carbon operation."