Electra, First Nations group partner to produce black mass

Electra Battery Materials Corporation and First Nation-owned Three Fires Group have partnered to source lithium-ion battery waste generated in the Ontario area and process it into black mass

The two parties agreed to form a joint venture to process the waste generated by manufacturers of current and future battery cells, electric vehicles and energy storage systems, according to a press release on Tuesday May 4.

Electra and Three Fires will work together to secure a “net-zero facility” in southern Ontario that will shred and separate lithium-ion batteries and produce black mass. That material will then be further refined at Electra’s complex north of Toronto to recover elements including lithium, nickel, copper, manganese and graphite.

The exact content of the black mass still needs to be determined, Joe Racanelli, Electra’s vice-president of investor relations, told Fastmarkets.

In March, the company announced that it had successfully recovered technical-grade lithium carbonate in a black mass recycling trial.

Three Fires has strong relationships with manufacturers in the area and hope to forge more, and Electra has the metallurgical expertise and refining capabilities to produce black mass, according to Racanelli.

“We would process the material that they would collect and shred,” he said. “In some cases, they’ll get the batteries and provide us with the shredding.”

Several electric vehicle facilities are moving forward across the treaty areas of the Three Fires Confederacy in southwestern Ontario, including the Volkswagen Group, LG-Stellantis, Toyota and GM CAMI, according to the announcement. There are also currently dozens of proposals for transmission grid-connected battery energy storage systems in the region, it said.

Our joint venture will pave the way for producers of various lithium-ion batteries and energy storage equipment in Ontario to reduce their waste, reuse high-value and increasingly scarce commodities like nickel and cobalt and lower carbon emissions in their manufacturing activities.
Trent Mell, CEO Electra

“Working with the Three Fires Group will allow us to get access to a steady stream of black mass material and address the growing demand for critical minerals,” he added.

In addition to its hydrometallurgical refinery in Ontario, Electra also owns the Iron Creek cobalt-copper project in Idaho, which it acquired last year.

Fastmarkets is currently holding a consultation on a proposal to launch Asian black mass payable indicators, delivered South Korea, to provide insight into Asia’s battery recycling sector.

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