UK’s EMR invests in Perth battery recycler Renewable Metals, ramps up plans for test plant

UK’s EMR invests in Perth battery recycler Renewable Metals, ramps up plans for test plant

Photo: Paul R Design via Unsplash

UK-based metals recycling group EMR has taken a “significant” stake in Perth-based recycling startup Renewable Metals in a precursor to plans for a demonstration-scale refining plant in Birmingham from which it plans to extract critical minerals from old batteries.

The undisclosed investment by EMR, the largest end-of-life vehicle recycler in the UK, has been hailed as a major coup for Renewable Metals, a lithium battery recycling startup that is chaired by seasoned mining executive Peter Beaven.

While financial details of the investment by EMR (European Metal Recycling) remain under wraps, the deal follows an $8 million seed round completed by Renewable Metals late last year to help scale and commercialise the WA company’s ground-breaking technology.

Renewable Metals has discovered a method that requires fewer steps to recycle lithium-ion batteries than existing technology, delivering higher recovery rates without producing sodium sulphate.

Renewable Metals uses an alkaline leaching process that eliminates the need to pre-process to black mass by crushing battery cells. The company says its mission is to be able to recover critical minerals from old batteries “so they can be used again and again”.

Through a two-stage process, the shredding and refining of discharged battery modules yield London Metals Exchange-grade nickel and copper, as well as cobalt, lithium and manganese salts, which the company says can be diverted back into the battery supply chain. 

Renewable Metals says that as part of a multimillion-dollar deal, EMR plans to utilise its technology for a demonstrator plant to be built at EMR’s existing research and development complex in Birmingham to recycle end-of-life batteries.

The facility, expected to be operating by the first half of 2025, will be able to process automotive, e-mobility, industrial, domestic and portable lithium-ion batteries, with EMR aiming to demonstrate a commercially viable circular solution for the growing EV market globally.

“The team behind Renewable Metals have a world-class reputation in this field developed over many years, so we are thrilled to be working together with them on this exciting project,” says Roger Morton, managing director for technology and innovation at EMR.

“EV battery recycling is a challenge we are working extremely hard to deliver and that is exactly what we’re doing here. 

 “This investment fits perfectly with EMR’s global strategy to deliver more sustainable materials for the UK and European automotive industry. 

“Renewable Metals’ technology is a highly cost-effective and scalable solution which fits into our broader long-term global strategy for this market, where we are actively developing multiple new collaborations. The team at EMR can’t wait to see Renewable Metals ramp up their production over the next year.”

Renewable Metals was founded in 2020 by Mark Urbani, Gary Johnson and Nick Vines – all experts in metallurgy – with Beaven, a former CFO of BHP (ASX: BHP), joining as chairman in June last year.

Last year’s seed funding round drew support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Investible, Virescent Ventures and Grantham Foundation, with the funds planned to be used for a pilot plant in Perth and to facilitate construction of a larger demonstration plant that can recycle up to 1,500 tonnes of lithium battery waste a year.

“We’re incredibly excited to have the opportunity to demonstrate the cost and environmental advantages of our technology at a larger scale and looking forward to a future in the UK with EMR,” says Luan Atkinson, CEO of Renewable Metals.

EMR, which aims to be a global leader in sustainable materials, operates facilities globally backed by a workforce of about 3,000 people with its operations putting 10 million tonnes of material back into the supply chain annually.

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