Cobalt recycling operations help EV industry meet metals recycling targets

As demand for cobalt continues to significantly increase, actors in the supply chain look to ensure they can access more sustainably sourced battery raw materials

Commodity trade house Glencore and industrial mining group Managem announced Wednesday, January 26 that they have formed a conditional partnership to produce recycled cobalt.

The recycled cobalt will be made from “black mass,” a refinery feed derived from recycled lithium-ion batteries, at Managem’s CTT Hydrometallurgical Refinery at Guemassa.

The plant will benefit from at least 90% green power from wind farms, the statement said.

Glencore and CTT said they intend to enter a five-year tolling agreement for about 1,200 tonnes of recycled cobalt per year, as well as for nickel hydroxide and lithium carbonate.

The Switzerland-based trading house has experience in sourcing and recycling cobalt and nickel-bearing products at its Sudbury operation in Canada and Nikkelverk in Norway to supply cobalt-containing black mass to the CTT facility, the statement said.

The partnership is conditional pending a feasibility study to assess whether the modification and deployment of CTT’s refinery for recovering cobalt, nickel and lithium black mass is commercially viable.

The feasibility study, expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2022, will focus on achieving a high recovery rate and a low carbon footprint.

Glencore will market the recycled products to its electronics and automotive consumer base under the partnership, the company said.

Decarbonization is driving the partnership, with both companies saying the move is designed to help the electric vehicle (EV) industry reach metals recycling targets.

“Demand for cobalt is expected to increase significantly in the next decade, largely driven by the green energy transition,” Imad Toumi, chairman and chief executive officer of Managem, said in the statement. “Most actors in the supply chain seek to ensure sustainably sourced materials, and we strongly believe that recycling will play a crucial role in addressing this demand.”

“As the world seeks to address the challenge of climate change, primary/recycled cobalt and other future-facing commodities are set to play a pivotal role in decarbonizing energy consumption and delivering the electric vehicle revolution,” David Brocas, head cobalt trader at Glencore, said in the statement.

“Glencore is already a leading producer, recycler and supplier of these commodities, helping to underpin our ambition of achieving net-zero total emissions by 2050,” he added.

Should the partnership pass its feasibility study, its production could help meet the strong demand for battery raw materials stemming from electrification and decarbonization.

That demand, coupled with tight supply of metals such as cobalt and lithium, have kept prices well supported in recent months. Market participants expect strong fundamentals to continue until more supply comes to the market to meet demand.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of cobalt standard grade, in-whs Rotterdam at $34.20-34.60 per tonne on Wednesday January 26, up by more than 86% from $18.20-18.65 per tonne at the same time last year.

And the price of Lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot prices cif China, Japan & Korea was assessed at $43-46 per kg on Wednesday, up from $7-8 per kg year-on-year.

Other traders have also committed to partnerships to expand the supply of metals used in electrification. Trafigura announced on January 19 that it had signed a $600 million financing deal with Shalina and subsidiary Chemaf to expand copper and cobalt supply.

Keep up with what’s happening in the battery raw materials markets throughout 2022, visit our battery raw materials page.

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