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US lead-acid battery recycler accused of exposing workers to lead hazards

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 11:07 -- paul Crompton

Lead battery recycling firm Gopher Resource has been accused of failing to prevent its workers from being exposed to “lead inhalation hazards”, a US federal workplace safety investigation found.

Despite warnings since March 2020 of unsafe measures of lead exposure, the firm failed to make changes required by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at its Tampa, Florida, battery recycling facility and smelter.

The company also failed to provide up to 300 employees with adequate respirators that could have kept worker exposure to hazardous substances at or below the allowable level, states OSHA.

Gopher Resource is a secondary lead smelter, recycling automotive batteries by separating the battery components to capture lead, acid and plastic, before processing those materials.

OSHA area director Danelle Jindra in Tampa, said: “This employer put their bottom line above the safety and well-being of their workers.

“Every worker has the right to a safe workplace, and they should never have to decide between their own health and earning a living. Continuing to put workers in harm’s way is unacceptable, and OSHA will continue to hold employers like Gopher Resource responsible.”

OSHA cited Envirofocus Technologies— operating as Gopher Resource— proposed penalties totalling $319,876.

OSHA also cited Gopher Resource for: 

  • Allowing cadmium, lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
  • Not implementing adequate engineering and work practice controls to prevent lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
  • Failing to provide an annual update of the written compliance program for cadmium, inorganic lead and arsenic.
  • Allowing workers to share aluminized jackets that were damaged and stored in the open, and exposed to lead.
  • Requiring workers to wear respirators that were not fit-tested annually.
  • Using shoveling, sweeping or brushing methods to remove lead accumulations.
  • Not identifying all hazards on entry permits.

OSHA also cited A&B Maintenance & Construction, a Tampa-based company that provides supplemental maintenance at the Gopher facility, for exposing workers to health hazards by failing to maintain a written respiratory protection program and allowing lead exposure in excess of the permissible exposure limit. 

A&B Maintenance & Construction faces $16,384 in penalties.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Tampa facility

Gopher Resource acquired the Tampa facility in 2006 and since has kept an estimated 75+ million lead batteries out of landfills. 

Since the acquisition, Gopher has invested more than $230 million into the facility, of which $140 million was focused on protecting the health and safety of employees and environmental protection.

The 21-acre site has the capacity to recycle 50,000 automotive batteries per day (13 million annually) to produce recycled pure lead and numerous specialty alloys.

The company’s website says it invests 25% of its operating budget to health, safety and environmental stewardship.

Gopher statement

A Gopher statement to BEST read: “Gopher Resource is deeply committed to protecting our people, our community, and the environment. 

“We have spent most of this year working cooperatively with OSHA to review our entire Tampa operation and to identify areas where historical practices could be improved.  

“We have only just received OSHA’s report, and we are still reviewing it in detail, but as part of our continuous focus on protecting people and communities we have already implemented the majority of OSHA’s recommendations. Other recommendations that require further study have been given the highest priority.   

“We would like to thank our employees and management for their steadfast commitment to continuously improving safety and operations.  

“Although the OSHA investigation of our facility is now closed, we continue to work with OSHA regarding their determinations.  Notably, there are some elements of the report that we respectfully disagree with, including the item related to respiratory protection, which we believe is based on inaccurate data and interpretation.

“Moving forward, Gopher remains committed to continuous improvement. Since Gopher acquired the plant 15 years ago, our unwavering commitment to workplace safety has resulted in a steady and sustained decline in the average blood lead level among employees to half of what it was. 

“Employee lead levels are recognised by experts as a leading measure of health and safety and the effectiveness of efforts to protect employees - and we are dedicated to bringing them even lower.”

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Bipolar lead battery organisation GreenSeal Alliance welcomes its newest member Amer-Sil

Fri, 10/08/2021 - 15:34 -- paul Crompton

Lead battery and redox flow battery separator firm Amer-Sil has joined the GreenSeal Alliance organisation, which supports the industry’s transition to lead bipolar battery production.

Amer-Sil joined the organisation because it “wants to be ready for the innovations coming to the lead acid battery” and participate in the works on the bipolar battery design, said the Luxemburg-headquartered firm’s managing director Jan Peynsaert.

Amer-Sil designs and produces micro-porous polymer/silica separators for all types of industrial lead acid batteries, and is known in the industry also as a leading gauntlet supplier.

The company joins 21 other key players within the lead battery industry with the collective goal of promoting and improving lead batteries throughout the world using GreenSeal Technology.  

Mike Everett, chairman of the Board of GreenSeal Alliance stated “Amer-Sil’s background and dedication to improve the sustainability of lead batteries will be a perfect addition to the GreenSeal Alliance. With each new industry member, the GreenSeal Alliance grows stronger, deeper and broader in skills and abilities.” 

Read more about bipolar batteries and the GreenSeal allianc’s work HERE

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Lead-acid recycler and battery materials firm Doe Run names successor to retiring CEO and president

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 11:55 -- paul Crompton
Matthew Wohl

Battery materials and lead-acid recycling firm Doe Run Company has promoted its vice president – law and general counsel, to president. 

Matthew Wohl took the seat on 1 July from retiring president and CEO, Jerry Pyatt who will leave the firm on 31 December, 2021. 

Wohl will take on the additional role of CEO from January 1, 2022.

Wohl joined Doe Run in 2009 as a senior corporate attorney, and became vice president – law and general counsel in 2011 where he led all aspects of the company’s legal efforts, including state and federal advocacy work to protect Missouri’s lead industry.

Pyatt said: “Matt’s background with both public and private sector companies in highly regulated industries will enable the company to navigate a course that advances new technologies in both lead battery recycling, as well as the extractive industries.”

Wohl said: “The natural resource industry, and in particular the mining and metals industry, is at a critical juncture. 

“As a country, we will need every ounce of lead, copper, zinc, cobalt and many other metals we can get to support the battery technologies required to meet clean and renewable energy goals.”

Additional leadership changes

As a part of the leadership transition, Doe Run’s Crystal Saling is being promoted to vice president – law and general counsel. In her new role, Saling will also oversee the company’s IT department.

Brian Mangogna has been promoted to vice president – mining and milling. He joined the firm in 1998 as a metallurgist, and advanced through the company’s milling department to become general manager of the Southeast Missouri Mining and Milling Division (SEMO) in 2019. 

He will oversee six mines, four mills and five water treatment plants as part of the company’s lead, zinc, and copper mining and concentrate production.

Tony Bogolin has become executive vice president – finance and HR, CFO and treasurer. 

Michael Montgomery becomes vice president – environment, health and safety.

Lead recycling veteran  

Pyatt began his career in the laboratory of Doe Run’s predecessor, St. Joseph Lead Company, where he then advanced through leadership and management positions before becoming the company’s COO in 2001, and president and CEO in 2012.

Pyatt said: “It has been a privilege to lead a 157-year-old company that has contributed in so many ways to our modern society.

“I am proud to have overseen the conversion of a primary lead smelter to a secondary smelter in 1991, the introduction of the first underground application of a modern, unmanned electric rail system to haul ore, and the development of hyrodmetallurgical processes that the company is poised to bring to market.” 

Regulatory fine

In 2019, Doe Run denied it had failed to adequately conduct performance tests and communicate with regulators. However, the lead battery recycling firm was fined $1.2 million by Missouri regulators for ‘dozens’ of clean air violations over several years at its center in southeast Missouri.

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Monbat buys into Tunisian lead battery market with share grab of Nour Batteries

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 11:11 -- paul Crompton
Monbat buys into Tunisian lead battery market with share grab of Nour Batteries

Lead battery business Monbat has bought a majority share holding of Tunisian lead-calcium battery and recycling firm Nour Batteries for €10.3 million ($12.5 million).

A contract for the purchase of 720,000 shares (60% of all shares) was signed on 12 May following a decision by the Bulgarian-based Monbat’s board of directors. 

The deal will take place in two stages: the first is for 23% of the shares; the remaining 37% will be acquired and paid before 31 December, 2021.  

Monbat intends to “modernise the production” of Nour Batteries and expand the recycling plant’s capacity. 

Starting next year, Nour will produce around one million starter batteries per year, which could be doubled in the future. 

The company’s owner Atanas Bobokov said the Nour factory would help Monbat meet demand as the company’s customers “currently order larger quantities than the company can produce”.

Bobokov was released from Bulgarian custody in November on BGN2 million ($1.2 million) bail following allegations he had illegally imported and exported waste lead battery products, reported Sofia news agency Novinite.

Bobokov resigned as the firm’s CEO to “preserve the stability of the company” last June.

Monbat has been interested in expanding into North Africa for several years, and aims to have more than 60% of its market outside of the European Union within five years.

In 2017, Monbat tried to negotiate a deal to buy the Tunisian industrial battery company Assad, but the deal never materialised.

Tunisia has duty-free trade arrangements with 15 African and Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia—one of Monbat’s major markets. 

Bobokov said in a statement: “The enterprise that Monbat is about to acquire now is smaller than Assad, yet it is a strategic advantage for the Bulgarian company to set foot in Tunisia. 

“We intend to turn Nour into Monbat’s second pillar, so to say, a pillar in Africa.

“Our investment in Tunisia will boost our sales in Saudi Arabia, because we have had to pay a 10% customs duty so far, while the new factory will make our products highly competitive.”

Nour’s previous owner will retain a 40% stake in the enterprise. 

In February, Battery maker Monbat Economic Group established Bulgaria’s first accredited lead-acid battery testing laboratory.

 
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Systems Sunlight's assembly hub to reach US lithium-ion and lead battery market

Thu, 05/27/2021 - 09:15 -- paul Crompton
Sunlight systems’ assembly hub to reach US lithium-ion and lead battery market

Systems Sunlight, a member of Greece consortium Olympia Group, has launched a subsidiary to run a 2GWh assembly hub for lithium-ion and lead batteries within the US.

The new subsidiary, Sunlight Battery US, and assembly plant follow a $10 million investment.

Sunlight Battery US will run the hub in North Carolina, which will have a total floor plan of 105,000 square feet and an annual capacity of more than 2GWh in lithium and lead technologies. 

The US facility is the company’s largest assembly hub, and supplements its existing plant in Verona, Italy. 

Sunlight says the hub will help it serve existing and future customers and grow its US lead and lithium battery market. 

Systems Sunlight CEO, Lambros Bisalas said: “COVID-19 has highlighted the need and demand for green energy and the US requires innovation and battery production support to compete with the Asian market. 

“We have invested €105 million in R&D for innovative lithium technologies that will usher in a clean energy future. We are keen to utilise and apply this research to our product offerings in the US.”

Brian Faust, vice president-general manager at Sunlight Batteries USA, said the subsidiary would focus on its existing products as well as new technologies like lithium.

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East Penn recognised for its lead battery recycling program

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 09:34 -- paul Crompton

Lead battery maker East Penn Canada and recycling firm Terrapure Environmental have received a project of the year award for their closed-loop, circular-economy approach to lead battery recycling.

The Environment + Energy Leader Award recognised the firms service that improves environmental management while increasing the bottom line.

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Global partnership to protect children from lead exposure announced

Fri, 07/31/2020 - 13:43 -- paul Crompton

US non-profit organsiation Pure Earth, Clarios Foundation and UNICEF have begun a three-year partnership to prevent children being exposed to lead from informal smelting operations. 

The organisations will work together as founding partners of the Protecting Every Child’s Potential (PECP) initiative, which aims to mobilise international action to prevent lead contamination. 

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Gridtential and LOLC partner to develop bipolar lead battery technology

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 12:53 -- paul Crompton

US firm Gridtential Energy has entered into a technology evaluation agreement with LOLC Advanced Technologies to develop bipolar lead batteries using technology from both firms.

Under the agreement, the companies will collaborate on prototyping lead batteries using Gridential’s Silicon Joule™ bipolar silicon plates and LOLC’s graphene additive AltaLABGX, which is applied to active material.

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Battery giant Leoch buys out UK lead battery distributor DBS Leoch

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 12:20 -- paul Crompton

UK-based lead battery distributer DBS Leoch has been bought by its existing parent company, the China multi-national lead battery maker Leoch International Holding.

The battery supplier has changed its name to Leoch Battery UK and will continue to target both the industrial and lifestyle markets. 

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STC in final stages of commissioning a bespoke lead-acid battery recycling plant in Nigeria

Wed, 05/06/2020 - 12:05 -- paul Crompton

Italian lead battery recycler STC is in the final commissioning stage of a five tonnes/h plant in Nigeria.

STC designed, built and supplied the complete lead-acid battery recycling plant for the Nigerian company Green Recycling Industries based in Agbara, Ogun State.

The final start-up of the whole plant is expected by the end of August.

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