Second Fenix Battery Recycling director quits amid further tussles over permit

Second Fenix Battery Recycling director quits amid further tussles over permit

Second Fenix Battery Recycling director quits amid further tussles over permit 1004 346 Batteries International

September 1, 2022: Fenix Battery Recycling — a company that has previously been accused of providing “misleading” information about its operations in a possible bid to acquire public funding, has come under further pressure as the second of its founding directors, Miles Freeman, has resigned.

The company was founded by Athan Fox, Miles Freeman, directors of Ever Resource and Neil Muttock in July 2020. Fox resigned on April 12 this year. Muttock, according to Companies House, continues as chairman of Fenix.

The accusation of providing misleading information — see more details further down this article — were made in an April 4, 2022 report by the Environment Agency.

Fenix is now involved in an “ongoing legal situation” according to the EA, the environmental regulator for England, BESB has learned under a freedom of information request.

BESB understands claims and counter claims are at the centre of potential litigation by both sides.

The EA would not comment in detail, but said Fenix had not appealed the agency’s original decision to refuse the company an environment permit — as reported by BESB in April — for a facility at Fenix’s site in Willenhall, in the English Midlands.

The EA said previously the site would be used to sort different batteries by category/chemistry and the subsequent processing of alkaline and lead-acid batteries.

The EA said in its April 4 report, which gave its reasons for refusing to issue a permit, that “one or more” of Fenix’s directors were facing “potential legal action”, because they “are known to the agency for failing to adhere to waste exemption regulations and for ignoring enforcement notices”.

 Resignations

BESB has learned that Fenix general manager, Miles Freeman, resigned as a director of the company on August 23, according to records filed at the UK’s Companies House. Freeman’s resignation follows that of Athan Fox, who resigned directly after the report was released.

Fox told BESB in April that his resignation as a director was “pre-planned due to conflicts of interest within my role in multiple technology start-ups”.

He also said he was “not ending my association with the other members of the board at Fenix Battery Recycling” because of the technology start-ups he was involved with would be licensing technology to Fenix.

In a joint email sent to BESB on September 1, about the Fenix dispute with the EA, Fox and Freeman claim that “third parties have somehow influenced the process.

“Numerous parties over the years have tried to force Fox to sell patents/IP or to cease development of the work. Due to the highly disruptive nature of this work, the group has attracted malignant individuals who are trying to stand in the way of progress.”

They said Fox and his team “have been working on game-changing technology and innovation for the lead battery recycling industry”.

Fox is a director and CEO of Ever Resource (formerly Aurelius Technology) according to Companies House.

Ever Resource claims to “revolutionize recycling”, including that of lead acid, lithium ion and alkaline batteries.

The MD of Ever Resource is the former Fenix director Miles Freeman. Both Freeman and Fox were appointed as Ever Resource directors on June 1, 2020.

According to the Ever Resource website, Fenix CEO Damian Lambkin is still among “associates and partners” of Ever Resource. The website says Fenix holds “technology licences” from Ever Resource.

Funding denial

In a further twist for Fenix, the government-backed UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) agency has now formally dismissed claims, made by Fenix, that the company had received more than £900,000 ($1 million) of grant funding “to develop a specialist technology capable of making lithium-ion battery recycling processes cleaner and more sustainable”.

UKRI told BESB in an official statement on August 23: “Following an investigation into environmental compliance at a site associated with the proposed project, the project was cancelled and no payments were made to Fenix Battery Recycling.”

Lambkin declined to comment on UKRI’s statement that no grant funding had been paid to Fenix.

Fenix CEO responds

Damian Lambkin told BESB in an email on September 1 that Athan Fox and Miles Freeman were “no longer directors of, nor employees of Fenix Battery Recycling”, therefore their comments “don’t reflect that of the company”.

Asked why Fox and Freeman were still listed on the Fenix website as chief technology officer and general manager, respectively, Lambkin said he thought this must be “an admin error”.

Lambkin said Fenix now had two new directors Andrew Gibson (operations) and Jeremy Stewart (compliance) and would publicly announce their appointments “in the next few weeks, in line with our PR and marketing teams”.

The new directorships were not yet listed on the Companies House website as BESB went to press.

On the dispute with the EA, Lambkin said: “Our legal team is involved in ongoing, detailed, and constructive correspondence with the EA’s legal team. We are very close to reaching an agreement with the EA, that Fenix can make an application for an environmental permit, and the EA’s view of Fenix’s management team, will not preclude that application from being granted.”

Lambkin said such an agreement “will not require an appeal, which would be a drain on both Fenix’s and the EA’s resources, for no greater benefit than the negotiated outcome will offer”.

But he said Fenix “may well” still take legal action against the EA… and “has been advised that it has good legal grounds for doing so”.

The EA report

In its original 21-page report accompanying its decision to refuse an environment permit to Fenix, the EA said: “It appears that relevant persons are providing misleading information both within the environmental permit application itself, and to other non-governmental bodies, with the purpose of obtaining an environmental permit and potentially to acquire public funds from other regulators.”

The EA also claimed Fenix was not considered “competent to operate the site, given its previous poor history of compliance and those of its directors, as well as reasons relating to technical competence”.

The report was also critical of Fenix directors personally, citing what it claimed then were “illegal operations at the Willenhall site” and noting directors’ “known history of non-compliance in the waste industry”.

Latest setback

In another setback for Fenix, BESB can reveal that the company is being removed from an ‘investment showcase’ website promoting low carbon and other businesses operating in England’s West Midlands region.

A spokesperson for the West Midlands Growth Company told BESB on August 31 it was not responsible for details provided in a ‘case study’ about Fenix’s activities, which was posted on the ‘Invest in the West Midlands’ website.

However, the spokesperson said the case study would be taken down in light of matters involving Fenix that the organization had been made aware of.

When asked by BESB about the case study promoting a site for which Fenix had no permit to operate, Lambkin said the article was “old” and Fenix had no knowledge of it being “re-posted” on the ‘Invest in the West Midlands’ website.