Lithium Australia develops battery recovery process

Lithium Australia has developed a process that recovers metals from spent lithium-ion batteries (LIB), with nickel and cobalt recoveries estimated at 90 per cent.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said establishing a supply stream from recycled batteries would help facilitate lithium-ion sustainability, and reduce the number of batteries sent to landfill.

“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,” Mr Griffin said.

“Lithium Australia’s process is based on lower heat inputs and retention of the lithium, which is recovered hydrometallurgically.”

Mr Griffin said recoveries of roughly 85 per cent had also been achieved in test work with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

According to a Lithium Australia statement, the company aim to produce high-purity lithium phosphate as a precursor for the production of cathode materials.

“This will be accomplished using the company’s proprietary lithium phosphate refining process,” the statement reads.

“Commercial investigation by Lithium Australia also found the potential to develop a nickel/cobalt concentrate as an alternate feed source for conventional refining.”

Mr Griffin said successfully recovering a precursor of high purity for the production of new LIBs, from material otherwise destined for landfill, is a huge step forwards for the battery industry.

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

Related stories:

Lithium Australia creates waste battery material

Lithium Australia has produced lithium-ion (Li-ION) battery material and batteries from mine waste using its SiLeach process.

Subsidiary Very Small Particle Company (VSPC) carried out the testing at its laboratory and pilot plant in Brisbane, Queensland.

Tri-lithium phosphate from mine waste was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material that was categorised as being of similar quality to standard battery cathode powder.

The SiLeach process eliminates the need for roasting during the lithium extraction process. Roasting involves lithium ore being heated on an industrial scale prior to leaching and is a costly, time consuming and environmentally impactful process.

Related stories:

In contrast to this, SiLeach allows the company to produce battery-grade lithium material from non-brine mineral resources at a cost similar to that of lithium-in-brine (LIB) producers, but without the environmental risks and high costs associated with roasting and evaporation ponds.

SiLeach can recover these battery-grade material from rejected mine waste including low-grade lepidolite mica feedstock.

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin highlighted its ability to simplify the lithium extraction process.

“The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce LIB cathode materials,” he said.

“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide — the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”

Brisbane battery recycling boost from Lithium Australia

Lithium Australia has announced it will begin manufacturing and recycling advanced battery materials at its research and development lab, VSPC, in Brisbane.

The company aims to close the loop in the energy-metals cycle and is seeking to establish a vertically integrated lithium processing business.

Related stories:

It aims to improve the lithium-ion battery supply chain with the company’s SiLeach lithium extraction process, superior cathode production, and enhanced recycling techniques for battery materials.

VSPC’s pilot production facilities have been fully re-commissioned, allowing the company to assemble and test lithium-ion coin and pouch cells.

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the company intended to turn VSPC into a global facility for manufacturing advanced cathode materials as well as for battery recycling.

“VSPC gives Lithium Australia the opportunity to manufacture the world’s most advanced cathode materials – at the high-margin end of the battery metals market. Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste batteries as a feed source,” he said.

“We anticipate immense pressure on the supply of energy metals such as lithium and cobalt in the near future. Battery recycling not only supports sustainability but may also, ultimately, prove the cheapest source of those energy metals materials in years to come.

“The ability to produce cathode powders from these materials, while also controlling particle size, is clearly advantageous. It is an integral part of our sustainable and ethical supply policy,” Mr Griffin said.

X