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Africa

Money talks as study finds DRC is a “favourable” place to build lithium-ion materials plants

Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:39 -- Paul Crompton

A study has identified the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a “favorable destination” for the supply of lithium-ion battery materials— despite ongoing humanitarian concerns about the mining practices in the African country. 

The reason behind the conclusion is that delivering battery materials is three times cheaper there than the US, a study by BloombergNEF (BNEF) found.

BNEF’s study on a unified African supply chain estimates it would cost $39 million to build a 10,000 metric-ton cathode precursor plant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

A similar plant in China and Poland would cost an estimated $112 million and $65 million, respectively.

The report notes that the DRC is well positioned to leverage its abundant cobalt resources and hydroelectric power to become a low-cost and low-emissions producer of lithium-ion battery cathode precursor materials. 

The report—‘The Cost of Producing Battery Precursors in the DRC’— was launched at the DRC-Africa Business Forum 2021.

The study was commissioned by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Afreximbank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), and the UN Global Compact.

Reducing emissions

The report found emissions associated with battery production could be cut by 30% compared with the existing materials supply chain that runs through China.

Emissions saving would be made if cathode precursor materials from the DRC were made into cathode materials and cells in Poland, and the final pack assembly was conducted in Germany. 

This is due to the DRC’s proximity to cathode raw materials and heavy reliance on hydroelectric power plants. 

Kwasi Ampofo, lead author of the report and BNEF’s head of metals and mining, said: “The DRC’s cost competitiveness comes from its relatively cheap access to land and low engineering, procurement and construction, or EPC, cost compared to the US, Poland and China.

“European cell manufacturers currently rely heavily on China for battery precursors. However, the raw materials for batteries are, in most cases, imported into China from Africa and refined before being exported to Europe. 

“Automakers in Europe can lower their emissions by shortening the transport distance and capitalising on the DRC’s hydroelectric powered grid and proximity to raw materials.”

James Frith, head of energy storage at BNEF said: “For regions to successfully attract battery component or cell manufacturing they need to have either a supply of key raw materials or local demand for batteries. 

“If they have access to raw materials, they can use this supply to attract downstream manufacturers. If they have local demand for batteries, cell manufacturers will move to the region to be close to their customers, particularly in the automotive industry. 

“Africa has a wealth of critical battery raw materials and is in a position to use these to attract more value-add in downstream processing and manufacturing.”

The full report is available here

Capturing the EV value chain

The DRC produces about 70% of global cobalt but captures just 3% of the battery and electric vehicle value chain, said Vera Songwe, un under-secretary general and executive secretary of the United Nations economic commission for Africa.  

Songwe added: “The DRC can receive other upstream mineral inputs needed for lithium-ion batteries – such as manganese from, say, South Africa and Madagascar, copper from Zambia, graphite from Mozambique and Tanzania, phosphate from Morocco, and lithium from Zimbabwe, to name but a few. 

“The DRC can truly become the regional and global centre of gravity for the production of precursor materials for batteries to drive the fourth industrial revolution. In so doing, the country and the rest of Africa can extend their access from the $271 billion battery precursor segment to the more lucrative $1.4 trillion combined battery cell production and cell assembly segments of the battery minerals global value chain.

This requires plenty of reliable and affordable power, which can be achieved by connecting Africa’s power systems with the Grand Inga at the core and with wind and solar power from North African countries, the Sahel and South Africa, geothermal from East Africa, hydro from Central and West Africa.” 

 President and CEO of Africa Finance Corporation, Samaila Zubairu, said: “Africa must benefit meaningfully from its abundance of energy transition metals by changing the extraction model. Unlike previous price booms, African countries need to move up the value chain through mineral beneficiation, smelting and refining, and move away from exporting unprocessed commodities.”

Olivier Pognon, director & CEO of ALSF, said: “The study confirms the cost competitiveness of establishing a battery precursor industry in the DRC based on local mineral resources. For the Africa Legal Support Facility (ALSF), such information is valuable for negotiating fair and equitable contracts that ensure that Africa retains maximum value from her mineral resources, while also contributing to the global energy transition.” 

Image: Capital cost to build a 10,000 metric-ton battery precursor. Source BloombergNEF. Note: The cost is for a 10,000 metric tons precursor facility and does not include any government subsidy. 

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Firm reveals plans for Africa’s first lithium-ion gigafactory to supply the energy storage and EV markets

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 12:56 -- Paul Crompton

With a raw battery materials supply to rival anywhere in the world, Africa seems the perfect place to build a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant, yet North America, Europe and Asia have been the locations of choice— until now.

The Megamillion Energy Company aims to be Africa’s first large-scale producer of lithium-ion batteries and plans to build a 32GWh per year facility by 2028 for both the energy storage and electric vehicle markets.

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New markets and better batteries to drive Pb growth in Africa

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 14:19 -- News Editor
New markets and better batteries to drive Pb growth in Africa

The lead-acid market in Africa is expected to grow by just over 5% CAGR to more than US$1 billion by 2021, according to a report by market analysts Transparency Market Research.

The continent’s lead–acid market will be led by global manufacturers Exide Technologies, Dixon Batteries, First National Battery, EnerSys, and Johnson Controls, predicts the company in its report Lead Acid Battery Market Report 2018-2026.

 

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Gravita launches Ghana lead production plant

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 14:06 -- John Shepherd
Gravita launches Ghana lead production plant

Indian lead producer and recycler Gravita has launched commercial production of lead from a subsidiary operation in Ghana, West Africa.

Recycler Ghana Limited said the US$3.1 million Ghana facility has an initial production capacity of 6,000 metric tonnes per annum (MTPA). An additional 6,000 MTPA capacity is set to come on stream at the plant from July 2019.

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Metair boosts profit on back of strong battery operations

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 12:08 -- John Shepherd
Metair MD Theo Loock

South Africa-based automotive and energy storage group Metair Investments has posted increased operating profit for 2018— boosted by its lead-acid operations in Turkey and Romania.

Metair said group operating profit for the year ended 31 December 2018 increased by 19% to just over ZAR1 billion (US$69 million) compared to the previous year. Revenue for 2018 was ZAR10.28bn, an increase of 8% compared to 2017.

Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 9.4% to ZAR1.33bn.

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Gravita expands to boost feed lead recycling operations

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 00:00 -- Hugh Finzel

Indian lead producer and exporter Gravita has revealed proposals to open nine new lead battery scrap sourcing centres in Africa— to feed its expanding recycling operations on the continent and boost the group’s bottom line.

The move comes just weeks after Gravita said it was expanding its lead-acid battery scrap processing operations overseas with two new facilities in Africa— in Ghana and Tanzania.

Gravita has now received relevant licences to run both African facilities, which are expected to start up this month.

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ENGIE solar-storage park for South Africa

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 00:00 -- Hugh Finzel

ENGIE has started commercial operations of its 100MW Kathu Solar Park (KSP) to “provide clean and reliable energy to 179,000 homes” in South Africa.

KSP is a greenfield concentrated solar power project with “parabolic trough technology” and equipped with “a molten salt storage system that allows for 4.5 hours of thermal energy storage”.

The project has been realised under round 3.5 of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme, a competitive tender process launched “to facilitate private sector investment in renewable energy generation”.

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Korean-German partners launch ‘sustainable cobalt’ project in DRC

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 00:00 -- John Shepherd

South Korean firms Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics are teaming up with German car giant BMW and chemicals group BASF for a joint pilot cobalt mining project to “enhance sustainable mining” for batteries production.

The companies have signed a contract with the German overseas development support agency— Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)— to launch the pilot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

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Zimbabwe ‘to build batteries’ on back of lithium mining

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 00:00 -- John Shepherd
July Moyo

Zimbabwe’s government has set out proposals to build battery-manufacturing plants as part of a “lithium beneficiation” programme.

The minister for local government, public works and national housing, July Moyo (pictured), said an unspecified number of plants would be built in the country’s central Midlands Province— spurred by renewed lithium mining activity.

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EDF acquires BBOXX stake to develop battery storage in Africa

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 00:00 -- Hugh Finzel

France’s EDF energy group has acquired a 50% stake in venture-backed utility BBOXX, as the companies entered an agreement to develop and market solutions for off-grid electricity in Togo, West Africa.

BBOXX is a London-based company that designs, manufactures and distributes “innovative plug & play solar systems to improve access to energy across Africa and the developing world”. They have deployed more than 150,000 systems to date.

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