- Extracting high-purity cathode materials from lithium-ion batteries to sell to electric vehicle manufacturers
- Patent-protected recycling process
- Clear route to commercialization
What American Manganese does:
American Manganese Inc (CVE:AMY) is blazing a trail in recovering metals from scrap cathode material rejected by battery manufacturers. The critical metals tech group is focused on recycling lithium-ion batteries from electric-vehicles (EVs).
Due to the rapid commercialization of EVs, the demand for lithium-ion batteries is growing exponentially and the raw materials supply is struggling to keep up. Lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and aluminum are all used as feedstock for battery production.
The recoverable value for these metals is estimated to be as high as US$75.8M per gigawatt of lithium cobalt batteries, according to the company's data.
EV manufacturer Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has announced that it is looking to “close the loop” on battery production by using recycled materials at its Gigafactory in Nevada, and Swedish competitor Northvolt is planning to build environmentally friendly batteries by incorporating a recycling facility.
American Manganese in April this year announced a significant milestone after being awarded a patent for its lithium-ion battery cathode material recycling technology called RecycLiCo.
It is a breakthrough in recycling of lithium-ion batteries by providing high extraction of cathode materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese at battery-grade purity. The process involves minimal steps, ensuring a high-grade, low-cost output.
American Manganese estimates that it will see an annual profit of US$8.4 million and a 47% margin once the process is commercialized.
The technology is currently being tested on a pilot plant scale. Then the firm plans to commercialize its operation with a joint venture partner or through licensing agreements, which it estimates could yield over US$8 million in annual profit at a 47% margin.
How is it doing:
In June this year, the firm revealed it had been granted a second patent for its ground-breaking technology. It now holds six patents, with a further seven filed for recycling around the globe. And in July, the pilot plant received cathode and anode materials from disassembled EV batteries, to be treated with the process - part of a US government project.
The same month, it revealed that a 99.88% NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode material had been produced, followed by a second batch at 99.93% purity.
Larry Reaugh, the CEO at American Manganese, speaking to Proactive Investors in July, said of the levels: "That's up in the high purity area where most of the battery companies would like to see it."
In effect, the stages one to four (of the five-stage) pilot project have now been completed and American Manganese will now turn to testing material from third parties.
Its contractor Kemetco Research has conducted tests on stages 3 and 4 -where the high grades were achieved - using the recovered NMC pregnant leach solution, which were created in the first two stages.
Kemetco will now conduct the same tests for the NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) cathode material to demonstrate recycling opportunities with other cathode chemistries. Once complete, the final stage of the pilot plant project, stage 5, will include the recovery of battery grade lithium carbonate as well as the recycling of process reagents and water
Stage 5 will also incorporate a new patent application that improves processing and recovery capabilities.
"The NCA and NMC cathodes are popularly used in electric vehicles, such as Tesla, Nissan, BMW, and Volkswagen battery packs. The pilot plant project has attracted significant industry attention and the company plans to extend testing and provide proof of concept for third-party materials, which consist of NMC and NCA cathode materials," the company said in an August statement.
In December 2018, American Manganese partnered with Battery Safety Solutions BV, a Dutch company, to construct a commercial plant for spent and damaged batteries. Construction is expected to be completed by late 2019.
The next step is to build a 1,100 tons per year commercial plant to process scrap cathode material. According to American Manganese, the estimated revenue generated during the operation of the commercial plant would pay back the initial capital investment in a little over a year.
American Manganese is hoping to find a joint venture partner to help fund the construction of the facility, which is estimated to cost around US$10 million.
What the CEO says:
In at interview with Proactive in July, CEO Larry Reaugh talked about the environmental credentials of the technology: "Our process is a closed loop process - nothing goes back into the atmosphere or the environment. It's the answer to an emerging problem."
He added that the process could also "help alleviate the stress of undersupply of metals like cobalt, lithium, nickel".
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