First Cobalt has begun a study to determine if black mass material from recycled lithium-ion batteries can be used as a supplemental source of feed for its hydrometallurgical refinery in Canada.
The company is investigating if the Toronto refinery could recover cobalt, nickel, copper, and potentially lithium and manganese, in addition to planned cobalt production from primary feed.
The scoping study will look at two scenarios: the first will consider using existing infrastructure and equipment not required for the cobalt sulfate expansion process that is underway; the second will consider additional equipment required to take all material streams to a battery-grade product.
First Cobalt is in preconstruction of a refinery expansion project to deliver an annual production of 5,000 tonnes of cobalt contained in a battery-grade cobalt sulphate, starting in Q4 2022.
The company says the incremental capital costs to modify the flow sheet to treat black mass, and recover other battery raw materials, is expected to be ‘substantially lower’ than a greenfield project.
First Cobalt’s refinery is powered by hydroelectric power from Ontario Power Generation, resulting in nearly zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
End-of-life lithium-ion batteries are discharged before being disassembled, crushed, sorted and sieved to black mass, which contains valuable metals including: cobalt, nickel, copper, lithium, manganese, aluminium and graphite.
Outside China, the predominant means of recovering metal from black mass is through pyrometallurgical process that involves calcining, roasting and smelting.
SGS Lakefield will conduct metallurgical test work on black mass feed material.
Preferred feed material are cathodes from lithium cobalt oxide (LCO), nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and nickel cobalt aluminium (NCA) batteries.