First Cobalt Corp has extracted key lithium-ion materials from black mass collected from recycled batteries.
The Canadian firm’s bench-scale testing demonstrated its technology can extract lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite from black mass.
The company is now working to leverage the existing operating permits, flowsheet and equipment at its Canadian hydrometallurgical refinery for the large-scale recycling of battery materials for reuse in the electric vehicle battery supply chain.
Metallurgical test work was conducted by SGS Labs on black mass material provided by upstream battery recyclers in the US and Europe.
First Cobalt has hired an engineering firm to study the leaching of black mass within its existing refinery to produce nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese products using the existing flowsheet, and to produce lithium and graphite products with recommended modifications.
Completion of the engineering study is expected in Q4.
If the study is successful, the firm intends to process black mass at the Canadian refinery facility on a pilot basis.
First Cobalt president and CEO, Trent Mell, said: “There are many producers of black mass in the western world but few environmentally friendly options to then refine the product into battery grade material given the capital expenditure required and the permitting timeline associated with building a hydrometallurgical facility such as ours.
“We intend to capitalise on this first-mover advantage and leverage our position as an ultra-low carbon operation.”
Under a Phase 1 expansion, the company aims to refine third-party cobalt hydroxide into a high purity, battery grade cobalt sulfate suitable for the electric vehicle market.
Around 80% of cobalt sulfate is made in China and there is no production in North America.
Longer term, the company’s aims to establish a battery park that would include large-scale production of nickel sulfate and the co-location of a battery precursor manufacturer.