Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. develops recycling process for lithium-ion batteries

Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. develops recycling process for lithium-ion batteries

Company has begun operating a pilot plant to scale up production.

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Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. (SMM), headquartered in Tokyo, says it has developed a process to recover and recycle cobalt, copper and nickel from used lithium-ion batteries and intermediates generated in their production.

 

SMM started recovering and recycling copper and nickel from lithium-ion batteries by smelting and refining the metals at its Non-Ferrous Metals Division’s Toyo Smelter & Refinery in Saijo City in the Ehime prefecture and its Niihama Nickel Refinery in Niihama City in the Ehime prefecture in July 2017.

The process that SMM has developed selectively recovers nickel, cobalt and copper as an alloy by using a pyrometallurgical refining process independent of the existing process to separate most of the impurities from the lithium-ion batteries. Then the alloy is leached and refined using a hydrometallurgical process to recycle the nickel and cobalt for use as a battery material and the copper for electrolytic copper, SMM explains.

SMM says it has built a pilot plant that uses these pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical refining processes in the city of Niihama to learn the feasibility of the recycling process and to scale it up to production level. The company began operating the plant in March.

“If the process that SMM has developed enables the commercial recycling of valuable metals from lithium ion secondary batteries, we hope this will contribute to the further development of a sustainable circular economy in Japan and to the recycling of resources in order to deal with global resource depletion,” the company states in the news release announcing the process and plant.