Li-Cycle, a major lithium-ion battery recycler in North America, will join with Glencore to apply its proprietary Spoke & Hub recycling technology at an existing Glencore facility in Italy. The technology combines mechanical size reduction and hydrometallurgical resource recovery specifically designed for lithium-ion battery recycling.

Glencore International, a subsidiary of global miner Glencore plc; and Li-Cycle Holdings Corp., specializing in lithium-ion battery resource recovery, have signed a Letter of Intent to jointly study the feasibility of developing a hub facility in Portovesme, Italy. The “Portovesme Hub” would produce critical battery materials, including nickel, cobalt and lithium from recycled battery content.

Glencore and Li-Cycle intend to establish a 50/50 joint venture that would repurpose part of the existing Glencore metallurgical complex in Portovesme to create the hub. The project also contemplates long-term financing from Glencore to fund Li-Cycle’s share of the capital investment. Glencore and Li-Cycle will jointly commence a definitive feasibility study that is expected to be completed by mid-2024. Subject to a final investment decision, the project will proceed to construction with commissioning commencing in late 2026 to early 2027.

The facility will employ Li-Cycle’s hydrometallurgical technology and is expected to be the largest producer of sustainable battery-grade products in Europe, according to Glencore. Located in Sardinia, Italy, the Portovesme metallurgical complex consists of a lead-zinc and hydrometallurgical plant which first started operations in 1929. The site, said Glencore, has port access, utilities, processing equipment from the hydrometallurgical plant and an experienced workforce.

Kunal Sinha, global head of recycling at Glencore, commented: “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 minimizing the distance of the freight routes and support Italy and Europe’s ambitions to be a global leader in the circular economy.”

Once operational, the Portovesme Hub is expected to have processing capacity of 50,000 to 70,000 metric tons of black mass (shredded and processed material) annually, or the equivalent of up to 36 GWh of lithium-ion batteries. The black mass processed at the Portovesme Hub will to be supplied from Li-Cycle’s growing network in Europe and through Glencore’s commercial network. 

Glencore said the Portovesme Hub is expected to be the first facility of its kind and scale to come online in Europe. Once operational, it will provide to provide significant benefits to both companies by enabling an accelerated pathway to a Europe-based post-processing facility with low capital intensity.