Glencore, Li-Cycle eye boost in recycled battery metal supply with major Italy plant

Glencore and major battery recycler Li-Cycle intend to build a hub in Italy which was expected to be Europe’s largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium, the two firms said on Tuesday May 9

The recycling hub, to be located in Portovesme, southern Italy, was expected to have processing capacity for as much as 50,000-70,000 tonnes per year of black mass, the equivalent of as much as 36GWh of lithium-ion batteries, they added.

A letter of intent has been signed to jointly start a definitive feasibility study for the project and, subject to final investment decisions, the plant will be commissioned in late 2026 or early 2027, the firms said.

It was expected to be the “largest producer of sustainable battery-grade products in Europe,” they said, and would produce recycled battery metal including cobalt, lithium and nickel products from black mass using hydrometallurgical technology.

More EU processing capacity could be game changer

If it is commissioned, the plant would be a key part of Europe’s transition toward greater local capacity for the post-treatment of black mass.

At the moment, the shredded battery scrap material is often exported outside of the EU to major black-mass markets such as South Korea, because there was insufficient local capacity to handle the material, according to market sources.

“From 2026-27, [most] black mass will be able to be processed in Europe. [But] in the meantime, [most] of it would still be exported from Europe,” a South Korean recycler source told Fastmarkets on Tuesday.

In response to greater market interest in recycled battery raw materials, Fastmarkets is proposing to launch weekly price assessments for black mass payable indicators in the South Korea market from mid-May 2023.

The difficulty of sourcing black mass or scrap batteries is a common complaint among European black-mass market participants, but the GlencoreLi-Cycle tie up will benefit from supply coming out of Li-Cycle’s network of smaller ‘spoke’ plants in Europe, as well as through Glencore’s large commercial network, the firms said.

“Establishing a hub through the re-purposing of our Portovesme site, which could become the first Glencore asset to produce battery-grade lithium, will enable us to truly close the loop for our European original equipment manufacturer and gigafactory customers across all aspects of the supply chain,” Kunal Singha, Glencore’s global head of recycling, said.

“The planned Portovesme hub is a landmark project for Europe’s battery recycling industry and is expected to be the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium on the continent,” Tim Johnston, co-founder and executive chair of Li-Cycle, said.

Glencore and Li-Cycle’s partnership on the project comes roughly one year after the firms announced a strategic partnership in which Glencore subscribed for $200 million of the convertible debt in Li-Cycle, and the firms becoming preferred partners in the lithium-ion battery recycling sector.

Want more insights and forecasts for the battery recycling market?

Keep up to date with global market insights and predictions for the battery recycling market with the Fastmarkets NewGen Battery Recycling Outlook.

What to read next
Financial incentives for companies developing silicon-based anodes in Europe are helping to support the sector, but the focus on innovation, not scale, risks them falling behind North America, experts told Fastmarkets.
Graphite companies Nouveau Monde Graphite, Novonix and Westwater have all announced offtake agreements in a developing US anode supply chain to comply with that country’s generous subsidy scheme under the Inflation Reduction Act and to ease the current dependence on China for material, Fastmarkets heard on Thursday February 15
Traders have built up their presence in the lithium market in recent years; they see an opportunity in lower prices – after record highs set in 2022 – while the lithium industry aims to take advantage of an expected growth in demand spurred by the global energy transition
A group of major automotive manufacturers including Tesla and General Motors sent a joint letter with mining companies and electric vehicle (EV) battery companies on Monday February 5 urging the Biden administration to allow a 10% tax credit to apply to both mineral extraction and mineral processing in the US
India’s burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) battery-making industry could mean the country becomes a significant importer and a reduced exporter of black mass in the coming years, Rajat Verma, founder and chief executive officer of Indian battery recycler Lohum, told Fastmarkets in an interview
Phoebe O'Hara, battery raw material analyst at Fastmarkets, shares her analysis on electric vehicle (EV) demand in 2023 and some insights for 2024 and beyond