Electra finds partner to refine recycled lithium
The firm successful Ontario black mass pilot project promises to finally turn out battery-grade material
Canadian battery recycling firm Electra Battery Materials has signed a memorandum of understanding with Canadian-German cleantech company Rock Tech Lithium to enter into a joint venture (JV) to supply recycled lithium to Rock Tech’s refineries.
The agreement will see Rock Tech upgrade lithium recovered from Electra’s black mass recycling trial scheme to battery-grade material, with material processing set to begin in 2026. Rock Tech will produce lithium hydroxide using proprietary lithium converter technology.
“Rock Tech will upgrade the lithium to battery-grade lithium chemicals at its planned lithium converters. This upgrading step is essential to achieve the quality and purity required to qualify the final lithium product for re-use in the manufacturing process of new batteries,” the firms say.
Electra launched its black mass recycling pilot in 2022 in Ontario and extended the project in October after the firm said it returned “improved recoveries of high-value elements, higher metal content in saleable products produced, and reduced use of reagents”.
The company has not yet salvaged battery-grade material from the operation. It has, though, recovered high-quality nickel-cobalt mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP), a diluted nickel product which can be used as cathode material for lithium iron phosphate battery cells.
The JV will enable the first material of sufficient purity and quality for new EV batteries to come out of the recycling project. And Electra CEO Trent Mell says that the company will look to monetise its pipeline of recovered lithium.
”The partnership is expected to generate an additional revenue stream for Electra, improve our service offering for our clients, and facilitate future growth.”
Electra has already shipped 20 tonnes of MHP to its customers but is yet to generate revenue from recycled lithium material. It has already said it will need more cash to scale it pilot.
There are strategic advantages for both partners to the JV, as the proximity of Electra’s recycling plant to Rock Tech’s refineries allowing a value chain with minimal transportation needs, as well as the proximity of both to mineral mining and automotive manufacturing centres in Canada’s advanced manufacturing cluster.
“At Rock Tech we are thinking long term [and] developing localised circular lithium value chains is key for this. Electra is an important partner to realize this vision in Ontario and North America,” says Klaus Schmitz, Rock Tech COO.
But the joint project may remain a relatively limited part of Electra and Rock Tech’s long-term planning for a few years, as only small amounts of saleable lithium hydroxide are expected to be produced in an “initial phase”, Electra says. However, the company adds that “supply is expected to increase over time, as Electra continues to expand its battery materials park in a modular fashion”.
“The companies also intend to explore additional collaboration opportunities including possible licensing of Electra’s technology for application in Europe and the co-location of future battery recycling and lithium refining plants,” Electra continues.
Such a plan would leverage Rock Tech’s lithium conversion facility in Guben, Germany. In October, Rock Tech announced it plans to build Europe’s first lithium conversion production plant for battery-grade lithium hydroxide.