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Neometals – bringing sustainable recycling to Europe

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Perth-based Neometals Limited (ASX: NMT) and (FRA: 9R9) is building a demonstration lithium-ion battery recycling plant in Germany.

Neometals and Dusseldorf-headquartered SMS Group have formed a joint-venture vehicle Primobius to commercialise an environmentally friendly recycling solution for end-of-life and scrap lithium-ion-battery (LiB) cells.

Three years of R&D development including bench and pilot trials, feasibility studies and engineering has culminated in a recycling commercialization JV (“Primobius GmbH”) with German company, SMS group (leading supplier and builder of metallurgical plant). The JV will jointly fund construction of a showcase LIB recycling demonstration plant in Germany and complete feasibility and market evaluation ahead of a decision on commercial deployment.

Primobius has a sustainability ethos, designing its advanced recycling solution to integrate into the circular economy, promoting the elimination of waste and the continual use of resources as well as reducing the need for primary resources.

SMS, a leading supplier of metallurgical equipment and plants, has been in an already extended exclusive due diligence process with Neometals since October after being impressed by the potential of the Australia-developed recycling technology and the performance of a pilot plant in Canada.

There is significant interest as European lawmakers and others mandate recycling and industry stewardship of lithium-ion batteries that are recognised as hazardous waste and carry a storage and transport fire risk.

The issue is becoming more pressing with the first wave of electric vehicle and static storage batteries due to come to the end of their life over the next few years and with a tonne of Apple batteries containing some 600 kilograms of cobalt.

The Neometals process allows the recovery of valuable battery minerals for reuse. The global reliance on LiBs has grown at an unprecedented pace, and is rapidly increasing due to the electric vehicle, energy storage and portable electronics markets. The waste created by end of life and scrap batteries poses a growing environmental challenge. LiBs are hazardous to people and the environment when not disposed of appropriately. Therefore, battery recycling is becoming mandatory in many states and nations. In Europe, the EU Battery Directive dictates that producers must recycle or acquit the same, while in California, recycling is mandatory.

Primobius uses an advanced recycling process with low CO2 emissions to delivery high purity chemicals back to the battery manufacturing sector. Using a unique proprietary process, cobalt and other valuable materials are recovered from the waste LiBs.

In November 2020 Neometals announced Primobius GmbH has entered a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with InoBat Auto. Terms of the three-year deal, Primobius and InoBat will cooperate on developing a commercial lithium-ion battery recycling operation in Europe that will utilise Primobius' processing capabilities of lithium-ion battery (LiB) material. “Europe leads the world in electric vehicle value chain investments, and we are seeing first-hand how industry is positioning to ensure that brands can deliver the lowest carbon footprint products and support resource efficiency and circular economy principles," Neometals Managing Director Chris Reed said.

The cooperation arrangement includes a recycling and shredding facility (Spoke facility) which may be co-owned by Primobius and InoBat, a potential hydrometallurgy recycling facility (Hub facility) utilising Neometals' recycling technology, and LiB feedstock sourced from InoBat's operations. InoBat focuses on infrastructure and technology-related investments in Europe, where it is establishing lithium-ion battery demonstration and production lines.

Specifically, InoBat is looking to build a Gigafactory in Slovakia and has already acquired a site and secured a €10 million (roughly A$16.5 million) investment from CEZ Group. Neometals considers this MoU as a significant step towards commercial operations for Primobius.

The November 2020 AGM Presentation can be downloaded here

2020 AGM Presentation
Download PDF • 5.81MB

A 2020 Video presentation of the company can be viewed here

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