Battery Recyclers Spinout Critical Metal Assets

COMMODITY CAPERS: Two Australian companies, Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT), and Neometals (ASX: NMT), both of which are making advancements in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries, are spinning out battery metal assets to maintain exposure to raw materials.

If the human race operated like a scout troop, it could be mooted that the badge most of us would like to earn, and then wear with much pride, would be that of the ‘Enthusiastic Recycler’.

People, generally, are eager to push their recycling credentials, ensuring their weekly rubbish collection is sorted into correct bins that enable those further up the recycling chain to separate tin cans from newspapers.

The surge in electronic device use and the demand for the advancement of same over the past twenty years has been documented by us and others over and over again in recent times.

What has also been reported throughout this time is the demand for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) due to their being a major source of portable power.

Again, we have been inundated by boffins from all sides, warning us of the environmental concern LIBs offer, especially since that globally only around nine per cent of spent batteries are recycled, with Australia maintaining its inability to keep pace with global environmental trends by recycling just three per cent, to keep them out of landfill, or more importantly, to recover valuable metals.

“Used batteries have been a problem for decades from a household and industrial waste perspective,” Chris Bolt recently wrote on the web page.

“While battery technology has changed a lot, even the most advanced rechargeable lithium ion batteries may still contain materials that could be considered hazardous.

“Most people just associate environmental pollution with these types of batteries, but there are other risks you need to be aware of.

“During the end-of-life stage of any modern electronic device, poor handling, storage, and disposal could increase the risk of fire or poisoning.

“Fortunately, lithium ion battery recycling is starting to become a widespread practice (even though it can be difficult to do so).”

Lithium Australia has hung its shingle on supplying ethically and sustainably sourced materials to the battery industry worldwide through the development of disruptive extraction technologies.

The company is operating on its belief that discarded electronic/battery waste may ultimately prove the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly source of critical metals.

LIT aspires to ‘close the loop’ on the energy metal cycle via its principal business units, which comprise its SiLeach® technology that converts mine waste to battery chemicals; and its subsidiary company VSPC Ltd that is an Australian-based company that has developed and patented processes for the cost-effective manufacture of high-purity, nano-scale materials for the lithium-ion battery market.

Neometals has also developed a proprietary sustainable process that recovers critical metals from cell production scrap and end-of-life LIBs.

Neometals has developed a processing flowsheet that targets recovery of more than 90 per cent of all battery materials from LIBs that might otherwise hit land fill.

This recycling process targets recovery of materials from consumer electronic batteries (devices with lithium cobalt oxide (LCO) cathodes), and nickel‐rich electric vehicle and stationary storage battery chemistries (lithium‐nickel-manganese‐cobalt (NMC) cathodes).

Through its recycling joint venture (Primobius GmbH) with German Company SMS group, Neometals aims to make revenue from provision of recycling services, licensing and sale of recovered cobalt, nickel, lithium, copper, iron, aluminium, manganese into saleable products.

This week, both companies informed the progress of the demerger/spinout/sale – call it what you will – of assets to aspiring IPOs.

Lithium Australia brought the market up to speed regarding its sale and Joint-Venture terms with ASX-aspirant Charger Metals.

With its listing expected on July 8, Charger Metals has exercised an option to acquire a 70 per cent interest in Lithium Australia’s Coates, Lake Johnston and Bynoe projects.

The Coates project is in the Western Yilgarn nickel/copper/platinum group elements belt, close to the recent Julimar discovery of Chalice Mining (ASX: CHN) in Western Australia, to which the JV believes the Coates project exhibits very similar geology.

The second endeavour is the Lake Johnston project, near Southern Cross, again in WA, which is considered prospective for lithium, gold and nickel and has outcropping lithium (spodumene) pegmatites.

Thirdly is the Bynoe project, near Darwin in the Northern Territory, which the JV has declared prospective for lithium and gold and close to recent discoveries of both commodities.

“Lithium Australia retains significant exposure to raw materials through its equity in Charger, as well as its free-carried project interests,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.

“The latter potentially provide access to raw materials that the Lithium Australia group of companies can further process.

“Charger Metals’ specialised expertise will expedite a focused exploration effort, leaving Lithium Australia to concentrate on its core business: the ethical and sustainable supply of energy metals to the battery industry and the development of a circular battery economy.

“We eagerly await exploration outcomes at the Coates, Bynoe and Lake Johnston projects.”

Neometals’ rational is similar to that of its battery recycling chum declaring the anticipated listing of Widgie Nickel will enable development of the Mt Edwards nickel field allowing it to focus on its core battery materials projects.

The Mt Edwards project is near the small township of Widgiemooltha, south of Kalgoorlie and west of Kambalda in Western Australia.

The project spans approximately 50km of strike length across the Widgiemooltha Dome, which is a world class nickel sulphide camp that hosts more than seven historical nickel mines with a new mine, Mincor Resources’ Cassini operation, recently commencing production.

Neometals proclaimed its intention to demerge the Mt Edwards nickel project into a dedicated nickel exploration and development company on the back of a week of announcements that saw the company increase the global Mt Edwards project Mineral Resources to 10.215 million tonnes at 1.6 per cent nickel for 162,510 tonnes of contained nickel across 11 deposits.

“The demerger and return of our Mt Edwards asset offers existing Neometals shareholders the opportunity to realise the inherent long-term value of this exciting development story in a discrete, nickel focussed corporate vehicle,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said.

“Widgie Nickel has a number of very exciting deposits located on the Widgiemooltha Dome, a world class nickel sulphide camp that has hosted more than seven historical nickel mines and hosts Australia’s newest high-grade nickel mine being developed less than a kilometre from our southern tenure.

“These assets are highly deserving of their own time and attention, and the recent metallurgical results from just one of the deposits that revealed high grade palladium reporting to concentrate demonstrates just some of what can be achieved with a dedicated focus.

“Widgie Nickel is strongly leveraged to both the world economic recovery and the electrification of transport which will drive increasing product demand from both the traditional steel and lithium battery sectors.

“The Neometals Board considers it is the best outcome for shareholders that a new, independent entity is established to devote the technical, human and financial resources that the Mt Edwards Project deserves.

“We are excited by what Widgie Nickel can achieve with the assets.

“A capital reduction and in-specie distribution to Neometals shareholders will provide a direct level of participation in a new nickel-focussed business, while Neometals remains focused on the Lithium-ion Battery Recycling JV (Primobius GmbH), the Scandinavian Vanadium Recovery Project and the Barrambie Titanium Project.”