Li-Cycle and Glencore intend to work together more closely to recycle lithium batteries. The Canadian battery recycler and the mining and commodity trading group want to explore the feasibility of building a plant to reclaim battery materials which could process up to 70,000 tonnes of black mass as input material each year. The two companies have signed a letter of intent to this effect.
The complex is to be located at Glencore’s site in Portovesme, Italy, which is in the southwest of Sardinia. Li-Cycle and Glencore first intend to draw up a definitive feasibility study for this project which is to be completed by the middle of next year. Construction work should then commence in the event of a positive verdict, subject to a final investment decision. The new plant is expected to commence operations in late 2026 or early 2027, the two companies announced this week.
Battery materials like nickel, cobalt and lithium could then be extracted from black mass in Portovesme. The facility is to use Li-Cycle’s hydrometallurgical technology and become Europe’s biggest producer of sustainable battery materials, the companies added. The said the planned processing capacity of 50,000 to 70,000 tonnes per year of black mass was the equivalent of up to 36 GWh of lithium-ion batteries. The partners pointed out that the plant would be the first of its kind and scale to be commissioned in Europe.
Black mass is to be supplied from Li-Cycle’s growing network in Europe and through Glencore’s commercial network. Glencore’s complex on Sardinia currently consists of a lead-zinc smelter and a hydrometallurgical plant. The complex also has significant infrastructure, including port access, equipment and an experienced workforce, the partners noted. Italian regional media outlets had recently reported that lead processing was to shut down at the site.
Joint venture planned to operate the facility
The agreement between Glencore and Li-Cycle also entails the establishment of a 50/50 joint venture. Glencore is to provide long-term financing to fund Li-Cycle’s share of the capital investment. The commodities group acquired a stake in the battery recycler last year. An investment of US$200m was initially mentioned, with the figure revised upward to US$250m a short time later.
The planned joint venture would then take over operating the plant and repurpose a portion of Glencore’s existing metallurgical complex in Portovesme to enable a cost-efficient and expedited development plan, the partners said.
"The planned Portovesme Hub is a landmark project for Europe’s battery recycling industry and is expected to be the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium on the Continent. We are excited to expand our global strategic partnership with Glencore and build on our learnings from the Rochester Hub in support of the rapid growth of the lithium-ion battery ecosystem in an environmentally friendly manner,” said Li-Cycle’s co-founder and executive chairman.
Kunal Sinha from Glencore felt that the project, combined with its existing footprint in primary supply and battery metal recycling, helped to support the group’s ambition to become the circularity partner of choice for the European battery and electric vehicle industry. "Establishing a hub through the re-purposing of our Portovesme site, which could become the first Glencore asset to produce battery-grade lithium, will enable us to truly close the loop for our European OEM and gigafactory customers across all aspects of the supply chain. It will shorten delivery times, reduce emissions by minimising the distance of the freight routes and support Italy and Europe’s ambitions to be a global leader in the circular economy,” remarked the head of Glencore’s recycling operations.