Britain’s biggest facility for recycling lithium from batteries along with associated cobalt, manganese and & nickel, moved closer to reality today, as the Environment Agency granted its backers draft approval for operation.
Recycling joint venture Recyclus Group say their Wolverhampton plant is Britain’s first with the capability to recycle li-ion batteries at industrial scale. Final approval expected within weeks from the EA will see it swing into action straightaway.
48% owned by LSE-quoted Technology Minerals, the Midlands facility is being designed to recycle up to 8,300 tonnes of Li-ion batteries in its first year. Building five more recycling plants in coming years should increase that capacity to approximately 41,500 tonnes annually.
Today’s announcement by the parent confirms the EA’s grant of draft operational permission. Recyclus have accepted the EA’s variations, and expect the watchdog’s definitive approval later this month.
Following final certification, on-site treatment and processing of spent Li-ion batteries will start immediately, the metal recycler made clear.
London-headquartered Technology Minerals came to market in late 2021 to boost the circular economy in the battery metals sector. The group covers all stages of its minerals’ life cycle, from exploration and mining through to end-of-product recycling for cobalt, lithium, nickel and manganese. Through subsidiaries, it has interests in exploration projects in Ireland, Spain and the USA.
“Black mass” is battery chemists’ name for the undifferentiated metallic soup lodged in end-of-life storage devices. Technology Minerals cite one research prediction that its global value will surge from $9.2 billion last year to over $50 billion by 2031.
Independently, a Canadian study from 2017 estimated that 11 million tonnes worldwide of spent lithium ion would need to be repurposed over the dozen years to 2030. Demand from the world’s projected 200 battery gigafactories – 122 of them already in operation, according to Recyclus – will increase demand for recycled metals.
Gate fees from hauliers delivering the residue to the Wolverhampton plant, plus resale of rejuvenated metals, underpin the joint venture’s business plan.
“Receiving the EA’s final approval draft to commence full automated operations at our Li-ion battery recycling plant in Wolverhampton is a landmark moment for Technology Minerals and for the UK”, chair Robin Brundle said.
“We will immediately begin recycling operations once the official certification is issued, which we expect imminently. With feedstock stored and ready to be processed, everything is in place to kick start operations at the facility and commence generation of cash flow,” Brindle added.
“As the world transitions to electrification and demand for Li-ion batteries increases, we believe (Recyclus gives us) a strong first mover advantage for what is an industrial scale opportunity. We look forward to building long term relationships with businesses and organisations, both in the UK and internationally, which need a solution for their end-of-life batteries.”
In March in partnership with Birmingham University, Technology Minerals received £1.96 million from Innovate UK, the government’s technology nursery, to equip a truck as a mobile facility capable of reprocessing battery metals.