EnabledMetals News Insights
Can the lithium price improve the outlook for LFP recycling?
3rd November, 2022
Chinese Lithium carbonate prices in China hit an all-time high of CNY 572,500 per ton ($78,400) in November, up almost 100% on the same time the previous year according to Trading Economics. The price rises are put down to a perfect storm of strong demand in mobility applications and tight supply. But is it all bad? One of the key reasons cited for not switching to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries – which save on mining of critical raw materials including nickel and cobalt – is their low recycle value. In general, LFP recycling requires a processing fee paid by the equipment producer to the upstream recycler, with the “black mass” then sold onto downstream suppliers with hydrometallurgical facilities, who make a small mark up on the metal’s recovery. Rising lithium values could help to raise these margins enough for processing fees to be reduced, and in turn encourage circularity in the battery industry outside of nickel-based battery chemistries. The lithium deficit (anticipated to be in the order of millions of tons without sufficient investment) is another matter, but for now the rising prices could precipitate the development of more recovery and this can only be a good thing for the supply security and sustainability of the market going forwards.