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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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MoU sets out goal to decarbonise Japan’s lithium-ion battery chain

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 15:07 -- Paul Crompton

A “Green Electric Vehicle Ecosystem” will be created following a deal between mining firm BHP, battery maker Prime Planet Energy & Solutions (PPES) and Toyota Tsusho Corporation— the trading arm of vehicle maker Toyota Group.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) has established a collaboration framework that begins with Australia’s BHP supplying PPES with nickel sulphate from the former’s production plant in Nickel West, Western Australia.

This will enable Japan’s PPES to develop batteries that will be supplied to EV manufacturers, including fellow Japanese firm Toyota. 

The MoU sets out plans to identify ways to make the Japanese battery supply chain more sustainable by lowering carbon emissions, and implementing standards for end-to-end raw materials traceability, ethical sourcing and human rights reporting. 

The parties will explore the possibility of recycling battery scrap and used batteries at BHP’s Nickel West facility for the processing and production of nickel bearing products. 

BHP chief commercial officer, Vandita Pant, said: “Creating a Green EV Ecosystem is something that could make a real difference for the battery supply chain. 

“It starts with the raw material and we are delighted to supply PPES with nickel sulphate in this partnership where we will work together, with TTC, to create long term success and sustainability.”

Toyota Tsusho Corporation’s chief operating officer for metals division, Masaharu Katayama, said: “This partnership has great potential to secure competitive raw materials for the EV value chains as well as to create battery material recycling loops, which is crucial for EV development in the future.”

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Mining firm buys rights to patented vanadium recovery process

Fri, 11/27/2020 - 09:17 -- Paul Crompton

Mining firm VanadiumCorp Resource has become the sole owner of a vanadium recovery process following a patent purchase agreement (PPA) with fellow Canada based Electrochem Technologies and Materials. 

The PPA sees VanadiumCorp take control of all patent rights for the VanadiumCorp-Electrochem Processing Technology (VEPT), including the entire intellectual property portfolio.

Ceylon Graphite eyes battery materials market with first sales from Sri Lanka mine

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 13:24 -- Paul Crompton

Canadian headquartered mining firm Ceylon Graphite is preparing to ship graphite to Singapore and Korea after securing its first sales since launching commercial production at its K1 site in Sri Lanka last December.

The firm’s subsidiary Sarcon Development is sending one ton of vein graphite, with carbon content of 95-97%, to 2D Materials so the Singaporean additives firm can evaluate it for its graphene production needs. 

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Mining firms link up for next-gen batteries R&D

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 12:13 -- Paul Crompton
Mining firms link up for next-gen batteries R&D

Two mining firms have formed a joint venture to develop both lithium-air and lithium-sulfur batteries in a bid to drive the market for palladium and platinum.

Canada-based Platinum Group Metals (PGM) and South African firm Anglo American Platinum (APP) launched Lion Battery Technologies to accelerate the use of platinum and palladium in lithium-air and lithium-sulfur battery technology.

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Western Australia unveils funds register to grow battery industry

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 09:43 -- John Shepherd
Western Australia unveils funds register to grow battery industry

Western Australia (WA) has launched a ‘Funding Assistance Register’ aimed at bolstering the state’s ambitions to develop a home-grown battery industry.

The initiative is designed to help firms such as mining and processing companies, manufacturers, research groups, renewable energy companies, and small businesses apply to unlock state and federal aid for future battery-related projects.

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Spanish lithium project ‘cornerstone’ for EU battery plans

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 12:28 -- John Shepherd
Spanish lithium project ‘cornerstone’ for EU battery plans

Australia-listed lithium developer Infinity Lithium has said its San José project in Spain has been tipped to become a “cornerstone” of the European Battery Alliance (EBA).

Infinity has revealed it has held talks with “senior institutional representatives” from key players in the Spanish and wider European lithium-ion battery chain in Madrid.

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Milestone for pilot lithium-ion recycling project

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 09:58 -- John Shepherd
Milestone for pilot lithium-ion recycling project

American Manganese (AM) said it has produced high purity material from a pilot lithium-ion plant recycling project in Canada.

AM said its processing partner, Kemetco Research Inc, produced a high purity NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) hydroxide filter cake (pictured) during the final stages of its ‘Recyclico’ project.

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New EU forum to support Batteries Alliance

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 12:18 -- John Shepherd
New EU forum to support Batteries Alliance

A new batteries research and innovation forum— the Batteries Europe Platform— has been launched by European Union energy chief Maroš Šefčovič.

Šefčovič (pictured) said the initiative would be a forum setting out Europe’s strategic research and innovation needs and linking existing EU-backed funding programmes to support the European Batteries Alliance.

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Umicore tightens cobalt supply grip with Glencore deal

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 10:28 -- John Shepherd
Umicore tightens cobalt supply grip with Glencore deal

Swiss mining company Glencore has signed a deal to supply cobalt hydroxide for Umicore’s battery materials operations.

The long-term revolving agreement comes just days after Umicore announced it was expanding with its planned acquisition of Freeport Cobalt’s cobalt refining and cathode precursor activities in Finland.

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