Partnership investigates potential battery materials complex

Article by Amanda Jasi

BASF and Eramet, a global mining and metallurgy group, have signed an agreement to jointly assess developing a state-of-the-art nickel and cobalt hydrometallurgical refining complex.

The complex would include a high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) plant and a base metal refinery (BMR). In HPAL, high-temperature sulfuric acid is used to leach laterite ore to recover nickel and cobalt.

The HPAL plant will be located at Eramet’s Weda Bay project in Indonesia. The plant will process locally-secured mining ore from the Weda Bay deposit to produce nickel and cobalt intermediates. Since it acquired Weda Bay in 2007, Eramet has carried out extensive geological work and confirmed the potential of what BASF refers to as a “world-class” deposit.

The BMR facility will supply nickel and cobalt to produce precursor cathode active materials (PCAMs) and then cathode active materials (CAMs) for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EVs). The location of the BMR facility will be determined during the feasibility study.

The development would provide BASF with access to an additional secure source of 42,000 t/y of nickel and 5,000 t/y of cobalt.

The partners aim for the HPAL and BMR facilities to startup in the mid-2020s. The first phase of the feasibility study will commence with limited funding. The funding amount was not reported.

Christel Bories, Chairman and CEO of Eramet, said: “We aim to develop mining, refining and recycling projects with a fully integrated approach throughout the EV value chain. Partnering with BASF is a unique opportunity in line with our strategy to provide a solid and sustainable supply for the batteries industry”.

Securing access to raw materials – especially nickel – is critical for supporting growth in the global EV value chain, says BASF. According to the Nickel Institute, the EV market share is increasing and is expected to account for more than 10% of vehicles by 2025, with most being powered by nickel-containing Li-ion batteries.

The share of high-nickel CAM is rising to meet higher energy density batteries and reduce overall battery costs, and Weda Bay’s resources rank among the most globally competitive for addressing this demand, according to BASF.

Mining operations at Weda Bay began in October 2019, and Eramet expects that by 2021 it will be capable of producing 30,000 t/y of nickel. Eramet owns 43% of the company which controls Weda Bay.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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