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.

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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.”

Australia could be the future of battery recycling – report

Australia could lead the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report.

The ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’ report says a new battery recycling industry could be possible to reuse and recycle Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste.

It looks at the growing demand for lithium-ion technology, which is currently being used in large amounts of electronics and household devices.

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The report says an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.

The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the rest being sent to landfill, creating fire and environmental risks. It is a growing waste, increasing by 20 per cent each year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.

Only 2 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is currently recycled, however 95 per cent of the components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

In comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

CSIRO battery research leader Anand Bhatt said Australia must responsibly manage its use of lithium-ion technology in support of a clean energy future.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling,” Dr Bhatt said.

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” Dr Bhatt said.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin said the report came at a critical time.

“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” Ms Chaplin said.

“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”

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