Right now, Australia lags behind the rest of the world in battery recycling, in that only three per cent – predominantly lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) – are returned for reprocessing. Recycling such materials onshore could augment the federal government’s Critical Minerals Strategy, formally launched in March 2019.
|Lithium Australia and Envirostream partner up to provide solution to battery recycling|
This strategy, while strongly focused on raw materials and supply chains, acknowledges the impact of innovation in processing to recover not only primary metals but also a range of by-products. Battery recycling relies on innovations of this type for sustainable and ethical supply of materials back into the battery-production cycle. The environmental benefits are also enormous because, aside from housing critical elements in high concentrations, batteries contain toxins in the form of electrolytes – materials that should never be relegated to landfill.
In a statement, Lithium Australia announced that it recognised Victorian-based Envirostream as the national leader in the primary reprocessing of LIBs. At present, it operates the only facility in Australia for shredding such batteries, producing a powder containing critical metals that is then exported for refining.
Meanwhile, Lithium Australia says it is developing a hydrometallurgical flow sheet for the processing of powders of this type, in order to extract the chemicals (nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium compounds) required to regenerate battery cathodes, with simultaneous recovery of graphite from the battery anodes.
Combining the key competencies of Lithium Australia and Envirostream will allow the latter to expand its operations, thereby ensuring that critical metals recovered from recycled batteries remain under Australian control to the point of sale.
“Australia’s failure to achieve adequate battery-recycling rates has been exacerbated by inadequate collection networks,” says Lithium Australia Managing Director, Adrian Griffin.
“Envirostream, which has considerable experience in battery collection, will roll out its own collection strategy to deal with the rapidly increasing quantity of spent batteries nationally.”
The funds Lithium Australia provides to Envirostream will be used to expand the latter’s battery-shredding facilities. Meanwhile, Lithium Australia will continue its research into the chemical processing of alkaline batteries and LIBs. It is anticipated that Lithium Australia will complete the design of its flow sheet for the hydrometallurgical recovery of metals from LIBs later this year.
*Article published in the July-September 2019 issue of The Asia Miner