Electra Battery Materials Corporation Successfully Completes First Plant-Scale Black Mass Recycling in North America

TORONTO – Electra Battery Materials Corporation has reported the successful completion of the first plant-scale recycling of black mass in North America. The recycling was performed using Electra’s proprietary hydrometallurgical process and recovered critical metals, including nickel, cobalt, and manganese, which are essential for the electric vehicle battery supply chain. The recycling process took place at Electra’s refinery located north of Toronto.

Black mass is the term used to describe the material left after the shredding of expired lithium-ion batteries. The material contains valuable elements, including nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, lithium, and graphite, which can be recycled to produce new lithium-ion batteries.

Electra’s recycling process stands out from others in North America, as established battery recyclers typically use a pyrometallurgical smelting process that has a lower metal recovery rate and a higher carbon footprint compared to hydrometallurgical processes. Electra’s success marks the first plant-scale hydrometallurgical recycling of black mass in North America and the first recovery of a mixed hydroxide nickel and cobalt product.

The demand for critical minerals is strong, and a supply deficit of metals such as nickel and cobalt is looming. According to McKinsey & Company, the available battery material for recycling is expected to grow by 20% annually through 2040. As a result, recycling black mass will become increasingly crucial for the EV battery supply chain.

Electra launched its black mass demonstration plant in December 2022 and processed material in a batch mode, successfully extracting nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, lithium, and graphite. Due to the encouraging preliminary results, Electra has decided to extend its black mass processing and recovering activities through June 2023, beyond the original target of 75 tonnes. Engineering studies will be conducted to assess the capital costs for a permanent recycling facility adjacent to Electra’s cobalt refinery.

Electra has established relations with black mass producers in North America and abroad to support its continued efforts. The total amount of material to be processed and recovered through June will be determined in the coming weeks, and Electra has identified multiple sources of supply and is in discussions with vendors on terms and conditions. All recovered material will be sold to third-party companies for additional processing and re-use in various applications.

In recent months, Electra has made progress on the commissioning and construction of its cobalt refinery project, with several key developments, including the completion of all testing of existing brownfield equipment, procurement, and detailed engineering. However, the company has faced supply chain disruptions and delivery delays to critical pieces of equipment, including microchips for the process control system and a falling film evaporator vessel for the cobalt sulfate refining process.

As a result of these developments, Electra has withdrawn its guidance and any forward-looking statements previously made on the timing of the commissioning, capital spend, and production of its cobalt sulfate refinery. The company is currently reviewing the refinery project scope, scheduling, and capital expenditures and expects to provide results in the coming weeks.


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