Glencore eyes options on battery recycling project
by AFP Staff Writers
Zurich (AFP) Nov 23, 2023
Glencore will relocate testing for its battery recycling centre project away from its site in Italy, the Swiss commodities giant told AFP on Thursday.
However, it is still studying the possibility of creating a large centre in Italy, it added.
Glencore, which is particularly active in metals trading, announced in May that it was teaming up with the Canadian recycling company Li-Cycle to launch a feasibility study into building a European lithium battery recycling centre at Portovesme, on the Italian island of Sardinia, where the group already has existing operations.
“Glencore has taken the decision to relocate the testing and demonstration phase to an alternative location outside Italy, that would allow for faster commissioning of such a demonstration project,” it told AFP in an email on Thursday.
The group, based in Baar in central Switzerland, did not specify where the tests would be carried out, but stressed that the assessment of its Sardinia site would continue.
“This development does not immediately impact the feasibility assessment of the larger hub project. The definite feasibility study is ongoing and remains focused on Portovesme,” it said.
“This initiative is important for our recycling strategy and aligns with Italy’s objectives for sustainable industry development,” it added.
Glencore is already established in Portovesme on the south coast of Sardinia.
Lead and zinc are processed at the Portovesme industrial complex, which has port access, infrastructure and hydrometallurgical facilities.
In a joint statement, the CGIL, FEMCA CISL and UILTEC trade unions criticised the handling of the process, saying they were concerned by the lack of a deadline given to Glencore and Li-Cycle, to the detriment of the investment.
Regional and national authorities “must clearly state whether they still want the development of industry in the country, certainly in compliance with environmental standards, but with the certainty of deadlines”, they wrote.
“The only positive element,” they added, “is that Glencore has confirmed the desire to continue the development of the definitive lithium project in Portovesme” while warning against “the current attitude of the region and the government”.
As countries shift gear from fossil fuel vehicles to electrified cars, recycling materials from batteries is becoming a major focus. Recycling would also ease dependence on certain countries for raw materials.
Regularly criticised by environmental organisations, often due to its coal activities, Glencore frequently stresses that it also processes important materials for the energy transition such as cobalt, which is used for electric vehicle batteries.
It also often highlights the recycling of metals to meet the strong demand for copper.
The project by Glencore and its Canadian partner aims to set up a European centre producing recycled materials for batteries, including the recycling of lithium-ion but also cobalt and nickel.
Battery recycling is one of the major challenges for the automotive sector as some 350 million electric cars are expected to be on the road worldwide by 2030, compared to 16.5 million in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.