February 25, 2021: Aqua Metals, the lead battery recycling company, on February 17 said it was expanding into lithium-ion by buying 10% of LiNiCo, a US start-up ‘focused on creating economically viable and environmentally sustainable technologies for lithium-ion battery recycling’.
Aqua Metals and LiNiCo had already agreed a lease-to-buy arrangement for the Nevada AquaRefining facility, which was damaged by fire in November 2019. Aqua Metals has now committed $2 million, paid in Aqua Metals shares, for the 10% stake.
The move, says Aqua Metals, is part of its strategy to potentially apply its AquaRefining intellectual property to lithium-ion battery recycling. Commentators said it was unclear how the IP would be transferred from the use of the reagent methane sulfonic acid in the lead process to another reagent for a different metal.
In the same statement, Aqua Metals announced the launch of an ‘eco-network’ of itself, LiNiCo and two other firms, Green Li-ion and Comstock Mining Inc.
This would “advance the best-in-class technologies to recycling lithium-ion batteries at volume, both economically and sustainably”, the firm said.
“We believe a collaboration strategy with innovative companies that have multi-disciplinary backgrounds in metals, mining, high volume throughput, and hydrometallurgy is the best approach to solving the sustainability challenge of metals recycling, especially with lithium-ion batteries,” said CEO Steve Cotton.
“Forming an eco-network is an important step in our strategy for exploring the expansion of AquaRefining technology to other applications.”
There is certainly a looming lithium-ion battery problem, with the Institute for Energy Research estimating that between 2021 and 2030, 12.85 million tonnes of lithium-ion batteries will go offline worldwide — and that’s just from electric vehicles.
It says more than 10 million tonnes of lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese will be mined for new batteries.