Neometals Benefitting from Battery Beneficiation

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: There’s no denying Neometals (ASX: NMT) – the self-proclaimed “sustainable investment of choice going forward” – is in a league of its own when it comes to the smaller capped mineral houses listed on the Australian bourse. By Mark Fraser

The multi-pronged outfit has its fingers in a number of pies, with all of them relating, in some way or another, to electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage batteries technologies.

During his appearance at the 20th RIU Explorers Conference held in Fremantle last week, Neometals managing director Chris Reed was fairly selective when it came to discussing his company’s undeniably eclectic project portfolio.

Rather than talk about all five of Neometals’ major endeavours, including an advanced conventional nickel exploration play in its home state of Western Australia, Reed focused on two – both of which involve what could be described as above-ground “deposits” that negate the production of carbon dioxide.

The first was its 50:50 incorporated Joint Venture with the German SMS group GmbH to fully develop, and commercialise, its lithium-ion battery recycling technology, while the second involved its vanadium recovery JV in Sweden with unlisted Scandinavian-focused explorer Critical Metals.

In terms of the former, the WA-based company has developed a process flowsheet (known as LIB Recycling Technology) which targets the recovery of valuable materials from consumer electronic batteries – including devices with lithium-cobalt oxide cathodes as well as nickel‐rich EV and stationary storage battery chemistries containing lithium‐nickel-manganese‐cobalt cathodes.

Ultimately, this technology is designed to recover cobalt, nickel, lithium, copper, iron, aluminium, carbon and manganese and turn them into saleable products that can be reused in the battery supply chain.

A 2019 scoping study, based on earlier bench scale testwork, highlighted robust project economics. Data from the successful pilot program is guiding current demonstration trials as well as engineering and feasibility studies. A demonstration plant is being constructed at Hilchenbach, which sits 100 kilometres from Dusseldorf.

During the RIU show Reed suggested the circuit was not just concerned with battery recycling, but would effectively result in the establishment of a base metals refinery, albeit one that was “hydromet not a pyromet”.

“So we just feed batteries into it – that’s all,” he remarked.

“And we beneficiate them too … these grades will double by the time we put them into a leach circuit.

“We did this in Australia and we are using solvent extraction developed in Mt Isa.

“So, we can take batteries of any format, in any state of charge, we safely process them, take out the plastics, the scrap, the metal and aluminium foils, and we get black mass, which is the graphite anode and the battery materials – nickel, lithium, cobalt, manganese – (and we) dissolve them in sulphuric acid, and sequentially strip them out.

“And why we are focused in Germany is 60 per cent of Europe’s battery making operations will be in Germany, and you’ve got the best car makers there, which is fantastic.

“And we’ve secured, for our first demonstration trial, 25 tonnes of EV batteries from one of the leading German car makers. And at the next trial we will run the stationary energy storage batteries and we’ve got about half the feed for that.”

In terms of the vanadium project, which is also a 50:50 JV, Neometals and Critical Metals are evaluating the feasibility of recovering high purity (over 99.5 per cent) vanadium products from three high grade vanadium-bearing steel by-product stockpiles (slag) in Scandinavia owned by SSAB.

Under the agreement, the ASX-listed company will fund and manage the evaluation activities up to the consideration of an investment decision.

According to Neometals, the deal provides a secure basis for the evaluation of an operation capable of processing 200,000t of slag per annum without the need to build a mine and concentrator like existing primary producers.

Other attractive project attributes include the fact the processing flowsheet uses conventional equipment at atmospheric pressure and mild temperatures and there is potentially saleable by-product generation. In addition, there is the likely possibility of a very low, or net zero, greenhouse gas footprint given the absence of mining and a processing route requiring the sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Reed told RIU delegates that while the process would work using sulphuric acid, that would generate a sulphate tail.

“These guys won’t let you do that – they are all tree huggers and stuff like that in Scandinavia,” he said.

“So we’ve developed a process which is essentially a carbonate leach; like a really super-charged soda water.

“You get about 75 per cent extraction, but the tails are carbonate. And so we will actually sequest 65,000 tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for this project, and given that grade (around 3.93 per cent vanadium pentoxide) it’ll be the lowest cost quartile every day of the week.

“It’s fantastic. It’s not very often that you ever see a project where you’ve got 10 years stockpiled, and these guys are making 240,000 tonnes a year excess on the stockpiles.

“By the time we build it there will be bloody three million tonnes there.

“So, it’s fantastic – I’ve got to say we’ve never been happier with any project we are earning into.”

Reed said Neometals had developed a “fantastic team with a lot of metallurgical and mining skills” that it inherited after developing the Mt Marion lithium project in WA.

“(With) the development and sale of that we’ve given back $55 million in dividends in the last five years (and) we’ve still got $80 million in cash and investments and no debt,” he added.

“What we do and what we present to our shareholders is an unparalleled exposure to this megatrend in these commodities.

“So, we sat back a number of years ago – we got into recycling in 2016 after we started developing Mt Marion because we knew there were better places to be in the supply chain.”


Neometals Completes Busy Week

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Neometals (ASX: NMT) was busy this week, announcement wise, this week announcing a battery recycling Memorandum of Understanding and vanadium recoveries at a mini-pilot plant.

Neometals, by way of Primobius GmbH, the joint venture company owned 50:50 by Neometals and SMS group GmbH, executed a non-binding MoU with InoBat j.s.a., a founder and the controlling person of a Slovakian battery manufacturing company, InoBat Auto j.s.a.

The MoU provides an evaluation framework towards a potential Primobius-InoBat commercial cooperation that will operate a commercial lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Central/Eastern Europe.

“Reaching preliminary development terms with a battery producer so quickly after Primobius’ establishment reflects the status of our project and the industrial scalability of our recycling solution,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“Europe leads the world in electric vehicle value chain investments and we are seeing first-hand how industry is positioning to ensure that brands can deliver the lowest carbon footprint products and support resource efficiency and circular economy principles.

“Primobius is very well placed to capitalise on the push for domestically sourced supply chains and this deal with InoBatis a material endorsement of the Primobius business plan.

“The relevance of the MoU should also be considered in the context of the consortium of conglomerate partners that sit behind InoBat(inc. CEZ, MOL and IPM Group)”

Neometals followed up this announcement with news of the completion of a mini-pilot test work campaign on the company’s Vanadium Recovery Project (VRP).

Results confirmed excellent vanadium chemical product purity (greater than 99.5 per cent V2O5), strong recoveries (>75%) and reduced residence time for Neometals’ patent pending hydrometallurgical process for recovering vanadium from Slag.

Earlier this year, Neometals executed a collaboration agreement with Critical Metals Ltd, to jointly evaluate the feasibility of constructing a facility to recover and process high-grade vanadium products from vanadium-bearing steel by-product (Slag) in Scandinavia.

Critical, in turn, has executed a conditional Slag Supply Agreement with SSAB EMEA AB and SSAB Europe Oy, subsidiaries of SSAB, a steel producer that operates steel mills in Scandinavia.

Slag is a by-product of SSAB’s steel making operations.

Neometals explained the Slag Supply Agreement provides a secure basis for the evaluation of a potential Slag Recovery Facility capable of processing 200,000 tonnes of Slag per annum without the need to build a mine and concentrator like existing primary producers.

“We are very pleased with the results of the Mini-Pilot campaign,” Chris Reed said.

“This substantially de-risks our patent-pending processing flowsheet and gives us the confidence to commence the PFS.

“We now shift our attention to the design phase of the larger proposed pilot plant which will leach material from three of SSAB’s steel operations in a mild carbonate solution at moderate temperatures and atmospheric pressure.

“The beauty of our process is that the main reagent is carbon dioxide, which we plan to capture from third-party emission to sequester some 65,000 tonnes in our leach Residue rendering it inert and available for secondary use.”












Neometals Completes Lithium Battery Recycling Pilot Testing

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Neometals (ASX: NMT) declared the completion of pilot plant test‐work on the company’s proprietary lithium‐ion battery (LIB) recycling technology a success.

Neometals said the pilot testing validated earlier bench scale assumptions with high recoveries of the targeted suite of cathode active elements and refined them into high purity chemicals for re‐use in the battery supply chain.

Neometals has developed a sustainable process for recovering nickel, cobalt and other valuable materials from spent and scrap LIBs that might otherwise be disposed of in land fill or processed in high emission pyrometallurgical recovery circuits.

The technology physically separates and recovers battery steel casings, aluminium and copper foil, plastic separators, and graphite from high‐value battery cathode materials including nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium.

The company considers the successful completion of the pilot work as an important commercial milestone for the recycling technology.

Objectives were met and surpassed, no fatal technical flaws arose, and the company now has the data to commence feasibility‐level studies and proposed demonstration trials in Europe.

With the Pilot greatly reducing the technical risk of its proprietary process, Neometals said it can proceed confidently towards the proposed commercialisation JV with SMS Group and advance feed supply and product offtake activities.

“We are delighted to have completed the lithium battery recycling Pilot with such encouraging results,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“We remain convinced that electrification of transport is an unstoppable trend, which by default will generate ever increasing volumes of production scrap and end‐of‐life batteries to responsibly manage.

“We have now proven that we have a solution to meet the lithium‐ion battery supply chains need for a safe, environmentally friendly recycling process which can reduce reliance on imported mineral feedstocks and satisfy increasing regulatory and stakeholder demands for sustainable and ethical raw material supply chains.

“We are looking forward with our partner to commercialise this asset. SMS’s skill set and global presence will further enhance value and lower risk as we prepare to showcase our offering to the market in a Commercial Demonstration Plant in Europe, the region with the fastest growing battery cell production capacity.”

Neometals indicated that SMS Group will complete its review of the final metallurgical test work report and Metsim mass‐energy balance.

The review constitutes the final technical diligence requirements to enable an SMS decision to enter a project commercialisation JV by the end of April 2020.

Both parties are negotiating the JV legal agreements in parallel with Commercial Demonstration Plant design and procurement work packages.

The Pilot learnings have highlighted scope to further improve outcomes in optimisation test‐work that has commenced and will precede the Demonstration Trial.





Neometals Adds Nickel to its Sustainability Quest

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: As part of its corporate brief, the diversified Western Australian resources house Neometals (ASX: NMT) says it “innovatively develops opportunities in minerals and advanced materials essential for a sustainable future”. By Mark Fraser

With a focus on the energy storage megatrend, this strategy “focuses on de-risking and developing long life projects with strong partners and integrating down the value chain to increase margins and return value to shareholders”.

While most junior ASX-listed companies like to talk themselves up in such a manner, Neometals seems to be delivering on its promises, with three core projects currently gaining significant traction.

The first involves lithium-ion battery recycling, with the company having devised a proprietary process for recovering cobalt and other valuable materials from spent and scrap lithium batteries, and now in the process of pilot testing the technology with the help of potential German Joint Venture partner SMS Group.

Second, there’s the development of the wholly-owned Barrambie titanium and vanadium project in WA, which involves the mining and processing of some of the world’s highest-grade hard rock titanium-vanadium ore.

As it stands a decision regarding the go-ahead for this undertaking is expected to be made by mid-2021 with possible Chinese JV partner Institute of Multipurpose Utilisation of Mineral Resources Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

Finally, there’s the lithium refinery play, in which Neometals is co-funding the evaluation studies for the establishment of a lithium refinery to supply lithium hydroxide to the lithium battery industry with potential venture partner Manikaran Power.

Underpinning this project will be a binding life-of-mine annual off take option for 57,000 tonnes per annum of the company’s Mt Marion six per cent spodumene concentrate.

And as if all this wasn’t enough, the diversified junior has recently added another string to its portfolio bow – this time involving nickel.

While this base metal hasn’t always been associated with sustainability, this looks set to change with the expected growth in the electric vehicle market, wherein nickel sulphate be a vital feedstock.

A few weeks before the recent RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle, Neometals announced RC drilling at its wholly owned Mt Edwards brownfields nickel and lithium project in Western Australia’s Widgiemooltha Dome area – which sits some 40 kilometres south east of Kambalda and 90km south of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in WA – had returned some encouraging nickel numbers from the Armstrong deposit, with the key ones being 6 metres at 8.11 per cent (including 5m at 9.63%), 10m at 1.65 per cent (with 4m at 2.42%) and 3m at 1.07 per cent.

Meanwhile, significant intercepts were also found within wide mineralised zones of disseminated nickel, with assays of the base metal including 34m at 1.94 per cent and 24m at 1.13 per cent.

In addition, another 1m at 1.18 per cent nickel was intersected at a just-acquired tenement that sits along strike from Mincor Resources’ (ASX: MCR) Cassini mineral resource.

According to Neometals, drilling at Armstrong focused on testing the down plunge component of an interpreted nickel sulphide channel located north of the previously mined open pit.

In the existing data from earlier drilling circa 2006, the association between the mineralised zones and the ultramafic-basalt contact was unclear, and areas of high-grade nickel located in the basalt below this contact also warranted investigation.

It was previously interpreted that there were some very high grade nickel (above 10%) zones at depth, which were shoots of remobilised nickel along fractures, joints and fault zones.

As it stands the project, which consists of 46 granted and pending mining tenements spanning approximately 50km of strike length over the Widgiemooltha Dome, has indicated and inferred resources of 7.718 million tonnes grading 1.7 per cent nickel for around 130,000t of contained metal in 11 deposits.

During his presentation at the RIU show, Neometals’ chief executive and managing director Chris Reed said the company planned to target larger, lower grade deposits “to identify the high-grade massive matrix ore within that and to develop a pipeline of short lead time projects, and to make new discoveries, ready for the next boom”.

“And we can see there will be a boom in the nickel price – there absolutely has to be,” he said.

“These batteries need sulphate (and) the normal way to make it is to start off with like 49s (the highly permeable nickel alloy), or almost 49s, nickel powder and nickel metal.

“It’s very, very hard to make that. You wouldn’t be able to make it out of nickel pig iron, so there will be a boom – my guess is in the next three to five years.

“So, we will align this project for that development timeline.”



Neometals Encounters Mt Edwards Massive Nickel Sulphides

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Neometals (ASX: NMT) declared to encouraged by results from reverse circulation (RC) drilling at the company’s Mt Edwards nickel project in Western Australia.

Neometals reported the completion of drilling, sampling and down-hole electromagnetic (DHEM) surveys at the Armstrong deposit on Mining Lease M15/99, and on recently acquired Exploration Licence E15/1553 that is located less than two kilometres directly north and along strike from Mincor’s Resources Cassini Mineral Resource.

The drilling at Armstrong and the yet to be named exploration licence comprised 11 RC holes completed in November and December 2019 and included a sampling and assay program the company expects to enable results to be used in future Mineral Resource estimations.

Massive nickel sulphide intercepts were encountered on the Armstrong deposit, including:

6 metres at 8.11 per cent nickel, including 5m at 9.63 per cent nickel;

10m at 1.65 per cent nickel, including 4m at 2.42 per cent nickel; and

3m at 1.07 per cent nickel.

These intercepts were within wide mineralised zones of disseminated nickel with assays including:

34m at 1.94 per cent nickel; and
24m at 1.13 per cent nickel.

The drilling encountered 1m at 1.18 per cent nickel at newly acquired tenement.

“These strong results from Armstrong continue our success in identifying massive nickel sulphide mineralisation within our existing inventory,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“In preparation for a strengthening nickel market in the medium term, driven by increasing demand in the battery materials sector, Neometals will undertake mining studies and develop a pipeline of short lead time nickel sulphide resources.

“The successful discovery of nickel sulphide mineralisation along strike from Cassini just inside the boundary of a newly acquired tenement provides encouragement that our extensive tenement package around the Widgiemooltha Dome is one of the most prospective areas for greenfields nickel discoveries.”







Encounter Resources Intersects Tanami Bedrock Gold

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Encounter Resources (ASX: ENR) reported on recent drilling activities undertaken at the Afghan and Mojave prospects in the Tanami region of Western Australia with Joint Venture partner Newcrest Mining.

Red 5 Continues Growth at King Of The Hill

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Red 5 Limited declared its decision in the December 2019 Quarter to boost underground drilling capacity at the company’s King of The Hill (KOTH) project in Western Australia with three diamond rigs, has paid off.

Peel Mining Drills New Southern Nights Gold Zone

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Peel Mining (ASX: PEX) reported the discovery of strong gold mineralisation associated with a new high-grade zone at the southern end of the Southern Nights deposit from the recent resource upgrade drilling program at the company’s 100 per cent-owned Wagga Tank-Southern Nights project, located south of Cobar in western New South Wales.

Neometals Produces High Purity Dioxide Hydrolsate

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Neometals (ASX: NMT) has successfully produced high purity (>98%) titanium hydrolysate (hydrated titanium dioxide ‐ TiO2.2H2O) from the titanium recovery stage of the Australian pilot plant trial at the company’s Barrambie titanium and vanadium project in Western Australia.

Magnetic Resources Encounters Encouraging Gold Results at Lady Julie

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Magnetic Resources (ASX: MAU) has completed an initial RC drilling program at the Lady Julie project, not far from the company’s Hawks Nest 9 project, located near Laverton in Western Australia.


Neometals Produces High Purity Dioxide Hydrolsate

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Neometals (ASX: NMT) has successfully produced high purity (>98%) titanium hydrolysate (hydrated titanium dioxide ‐ TiO2.2H2O) from the titanium recovery stage of the Australian pilot plant trial at the company’s Barrambie titanium and vanadium project in Western Australia.

Neometals noted that the titanium recovery from Barrambie concentrate exceeded 90 per cent, adding that the batch Titanium Pilot results confirm the technical feasibility of the company’s process at pilot scale for the production of a high purity intermediate (hydrolysate) used in the titanium pigment process.

The Barrambie resource contains high‐grade ilmenite intergrown with a vanadium‐bearing magnetite (iron).

The Neometals process flowsheet has demonstrated it can produce a superior intermediate feed material that is safer, cleaner and cheaper to produce titanium pigment from.

Further upside in this flowsheet for Barrambie is the recovery of the accessory vanadium and iron in a saleable form.

Neometals explained the Titanium Pilot is the first key evaluation milestone under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) the company has with Chinese metallurgical group, IMUMR.

Under the terms of the MoU, if IMUMR funds the demonstration plant program at its extensive research facilities in China, and both parties agree to jointly fund a formal evaluation study for a mining and concentrating operation at Barrambie with subsequent downstream processing in China, the parties may negotiate in good faith the terms of a 50:50 production JV.

Samples of titanium hydrolysate have been freighted for evaluation by prospective concentrate offtake customers, being titanium pigment producers within and outside of China.

Neometals indicated the next evaluation step is the recovery and production of a vanadium by‐product from the primary leaching stage of the Titanium Pilot Plant.

While all this is going in, Neometals is preparing approximately 10 tonnes of gravity and magnetic concentrates from the high titanium grade Eastern Band for a proposed Chinese demonstration plant trial.

The company anticipates the vanadium test work and concentrates shipment should be completed by the end of the March Quarter 2020.

“We are confident our flowsheet can produce the highest value‐in‐use for potential customers and recover maximum value from the deposit for Neometals and its partners,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“Proving an ore can be concentrated and converted to high purity chemicals at good recoveries is the first step in attracting quality offtakers to enable the development of globally significant industrial mineral projects, whether they be lithium or titanium.

“The outcomes to date bode well for advancing our commercialisation plans in 2020.”





Neometals Drills Mt Edwards Nickel Results

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Neometals (ASX: NMT) has been encouraged by assay results from reverse circulation (RC) drilling at the Mt Edwards nickel project near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

Neometals completed drilling, sampling and down-hole electromagnetic (DHEM) surveys conducted across the Widgie 3 and Gillett deposits and the Widgie 3 North, Rhona and Widgie 3 South prospects.

These deposits and prospects, including Widgie Townsite, are collectively known as the Widgie South Trend and are located on Mining Lease M15/94 south of the community of Widgiemooltha.

In addition, further drilling was carried out at the Lake Eaton prospect on Exploration Licence E15/989.

Drill assay results include:

16 metres at 1.45 per cent nickel, including 2m at 4.79 per cent and 5m at 1.81 per cent nickel;
21m at 1.05 per cent nickel, including 4m at 2.42 per cent nickel; and
7m at 1.37 per cent nickel, including 3m at 2.39 per cent nickel.

“Neometals is progressively increasing the quantity and quality of its Mt Edwards Nickel Mineral Resources and improving the geological understanding with modern geophysics,” Neometals said in its ASX announcement.

“The company is very pleased with the outcomes of this exploration program, which represents the first drilling for nickel at the Widgie South Trend since April 2008.

“The four kilometres long Widgie South Trend zone, with its three Mineral Resources, contains an estimated 67,000 tonnes of nickel, in a pro-mining jurisdiction located near major road, rail and energy infrastructure in a world class nickel camp.”

In addition to the positive assay results, Neometals indicated it has conducted also DHEM surveys on all 13 drill holes completed at the Widgie South Trend which show several conductors considered to be strong targets for nickel sulphide mineralisation.

Further DHEM surveys are currently being conducted on historic drill holes across the Widgie South Trend to generate further drill targets.





Lithium Australia and Neometals Leading the Australian LIB Recycling Pack

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: There is little doubt that the world is currently in the thrall of the lithium-ion battery (LIB).

They help us survive the modern struggles that we encounter on a daily basis, such as maintaining a charge on our mobile phones or computer-related devices, thus keeping us contacted with the rest of the world and our family members in the next room.

They are, presently, our greatest source of portable power.

They are also, ironically, creating an environmental nightmare.

Analysts who like to make themselves important have made some big predictions in recent years, especially in regard to the market penetration of LIBs, particularly in the electric vehicle (EV) sector.

Through all the noise in this space, it has generally filtered through that it is likely that the availability of spent batteries will rise to more than seven million tonnes annually over the next 20 years.

Diligently, we sort our household rubbish each week, or fortnight, depending on the generosity of your local council, into different levels of importance, filling any number of bins to assuage our collective waste related guilt.

On a global basis, however, only around nine per cent of spent LIBs are recycled to keep them out of landfill and recover valuable metals.

In Australia, which is supposedly one of the recycling powerhouses, the recycling rate is embarrassing, some would say woeful, coming in at less than three per cent.

What this all means is that the world is missing out on a great opportunity – that being the large quantity of batteries discarded globally actually represents a potentially significant resource.

Australia is a long way behind the countries that are presently leading the battery recycling wars.

Belgium, South Korea, China and Canada recycle the most batteries, with the metals they contain generally recovered by smelting – or as it is referred to by those in the know – pyrometallurgical processing.

Pyrometallurgical processing of spent LIBs can efficiently recover nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese from LIBs, but not the lithium or graphite.

Research and development into the science by Western Australia-based battery recycling company, Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) realised that a potential alternative to the downsides associated with pyrometallurgical processing is to take a hydrometallurgical approach.

Lithium Australia is developing a hydrometallurgical technique that recovers all metals, including lithium, from spent LIBs.

Lithium Australia has openly declared that its corporate intentions include shoring up an ethical and sustainable supply of energy metals to the battery industry, thus enhancing energy security in the process.

The company is eager to create a circular battery economy and has highlighted the recycling of old lithium-ion batteries to new is intrinsic to this plan.

In October 2019, Lithium Australia announced it had increased its equity in Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd (EA) to 23.9 per cent.

Envirostream is the only company in Australia with the integrated capacity to collect, sort, shred and separate all the components of spent LIBs.

Another string to Lithium Australia’s LIB bow is it 100 per cent-owned subsidiary company, VSPC Ltd that has developed advanced processes for manufacturing lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) cathode powders at its R&D and pilot plant facility in Brisbane, Queensland.

The cathode powders produced by VSPC possess simple nanotechnology that produces superior battery cathodes, provides control of composition and particle size in a precise manner and highly reliable quality control with low production costs.

Recent evaluation of VSPC’s Gen 4 LFP cathode material was undertaken at Chinese battery producer DLG Battery Co., Ltd. That saw the materials assessed in a commercial 18650 battery-cell format under a range of electrochemical and temperature conditions and subjected to long-term cycle testing.

The testing concluded that VSPC’s LFP material met DLG’s stringent specifications for use in LIB cells for both power and energy applications.

VSPC also received positive feedback from Japanese battery-cell producers, which are evaluating its LFP products at laboratory scale with the electrochemical performance of VSPC’s LFP material meeting the rigorous Japanese requirements.

“This year has seen a significant shift in the Chinese battery markets, with greater demand for LFP for use in short-range electric vehicle and energy-storage applications,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.

“The test results from battery producers in China and Japan show clearly that the performance of VSPC cathode powders is comparable to other materials currently supplied for the production of LFP LIBs.

“We look forward to furthering our partnerships within the battery industry and, ultimately, supplying products that meet not only VSPC’s stringent quality specifications but those of its international customers.”

Lithium Australia anticipates the market for LFP to grow strongly in the next 10 years, due to its particular suitability for energy storage and certain types of transportation, which includes being a replacement for lead-acid batteries in various automotive applications and as back-up for power supplies.

Another Western Australian company that was an early battery recycling proponent is Neometals (ASX: NMT).

Neometals has been also carrying out LIB Pilot test-work, however its focus is the recovery of very high-purity (+99.9%) nickel-sulphate solution from the hydrometallurgical processing stage of its patent pending recycling technology.

The latest tests produced nickel recovery from shredded battery feed into nickel product that exceeded 98 per cent.

The Pilot test-work being is being undertaken on behalf of Neometals by SGS Canada Inc.

The work represents part of the pre-development activities for a proposed commercial LIB recycling venture targeting greater than 90 per cent recovery of LIB materials from electric vehicle and consumer electronics production scrap and end-of-life cells.

Neometals shredded and processed 2.3 tonnes of spent commercial LIBs during the initial Feed Preparation Stage of the Pilot test-work.

A total of 980 kilograms of mixed cathode and anode materials, known as Black Powder, fed the subsequent hydrometallurgical processing stage, from which chemical products are recovered and refined into high-purity cathode intermediate materials.

The Hydrometallurgical Processing stage leaches the Black Powder and sequentially recovers cathode materials, which are refined to generate high-purity chemical products for potential sale directly into the battery supply chain.

As the Pilot test-work program draws towards completion, it does so having recovered a suite of materials, including copper, manganese, cobalt and nickel-sulphates.

“The Pilot test-work continues to deliver very encouraging results that support the Neometals desire to sell high-purity cathode materials back into the battery supply chain,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said.

“With provenance, ethical supply and material scarcity concerns, a sustainable, secure supply chain will be key for leaders in energy storage.

“Eco-friendly recycling will play that vital role and our development timing aligns well with global forecast cell capacity against the projected supply deficit in traditional mine-sourced battery minerals.”

Neometals said the purity and the recovery rates of the nickel product materially had exceeded its expectations, enabling it to tick off another milestone in the confirmation of the technical feasibility of the company’s proprietary process.

The company explained that the recovery of cobalt and nickel are key drivers of the project economics adding that the Pilot purity/recovery data strongly supports the validity of previous economic evaluations.

Neometals expects to hit its remains on schedule for completing the bulk of the Pilot stage by December 2019.

It is also expected that the recovery of lithium will be due to commence prior to year-end and be concluded in January 2020 along with outcomes from final purification and crystallisation to produce ultra-high purity, cathode materials.

Successful completion of the Pilot and confirmation of the mass-energy balances are the key technical considerations for SMS Group’s due diligence for a 50:50 joint venture decision.






Neometals Commences Lithium Battery Recycling Pilot

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Neometals (ASX: NMT) completed commissioning of stage 1 of the company’s lithium‐ion battery (LIB) recycling pilot plant in Canada.

Neometals engaged SGS Canada Inc. (SGS) to construct and operate the pilot in that company’s fully accredited Lakefield facility, which is recognised worldwide for housing pre‐eminent expertise in the development, optimisation and piloting of mineral processing and chemical extraction processes.

SGS will undertake Pilot front‐end feed preparation (shredding, removal of metal casings and plastics) as part of the Stage 1, as well as the subsequent hydrometallurgical processing and refining stage to deliver high‐purity battery materials for market qualification (Stage 2).

Neometals explained the Pilot is intended to demonstrate and showcase its mixed feed flowsheet which can accommodate a variety of LIB types from multiple sources including consumer electronics, electric vehicle batteries and the emerging stationary storage sector.

The Pilot aims to verify assumptions Neometals made at bench scale, it will generate marketing samples of products and will also provide essential data required for a front‐end engineering design study (FEED).

The proposed FEED study will support a subsequent feasibility study and enable consideration of an investment decision on a commercial plant (FID).

“We are delighted to see our battery recycling project back on track,” Neometals managing director Chris Reed said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The commissioning of the Pilot represents a significant milestone and marks the culmination of extensive research and development into a flowsheet to process multiple battery chemistries, from consumer electronics to electric vehicle applications.

“With ever increasing volumes of commercial LIBs reaching their end of life, we are focussed on proving at scale, then qualifying our scale‐able and modular recycling solution with industry as early as possible.

“The Pilot will serve as a showcase facility for potential partners as well as provide strong independent data for future engineering and financial studies.”

Despite regions like the European Union (EU) being heavily regulated under battery recycling compliance schemes, it is estimated that only approximately five per cent of LIBs are currently recycled globally.

Worldwide regulation tightening coupled with corporate requirements for ethical sourcing and disposal of LIBs, thus creating an opportunity for Neometals to recover critical / non‐renewable resources while reducing environmental impacts associated with battery disposal.

Neometals has developed a process flowsheet to recover greater than 90 per cent of all battery materials (plus recycle water and minimise plastic and graphite waste) from targeted end of life LIBs that could otherwise find their way to land fill or inefficient base metal recovery circuits.

Neometals’ process flowsheet targets the recovery of cobalt from consumer electronic batteries (devices with lithium cobalt oxide cathodes (“LCO”) as well as nickel‐rich EV and stationary storage battery chemistries (lithium‐nickel‐ manganese‐cobalt (NMC) cathodes).

This mixed feed flowsheet is the subject of the Pilot.