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Anglo launches battery raw materials research project with large China recycler

GEM and Anglo teams at signing ceremony.

GEM and Anglo teams at signing ceremony.

26th January 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) ­– South Africa-founded and Johannesburg- and London-listed Anglo American on Friday announced the launch of a research and development project in collaboration with one of China’s largest battery and battery material recyclers.

The purpose of the project with Shenzhen-based GEM is to explore new and more efficient technologies for the use of existing and alternative raw materials deployed in batteries for battery electric vehicles.

The project will focus on jointly developing metal dissolving technologies, using metals such as nickel, cobalt and manganese, to facilitate a more efficient use of battery materials, from either mined or recycled routes, with the intention of improving existing processes as well as exploring the use of new materials not currently employed in the battery value chain.

GEM is a battery material producer with pioneering technology and capability to recycle batteries through the extraction of the minerals they contain.

“This collaboration marks an important step for us, as we seek to drive synergies with industry leaders such as Anglo American that participate in the critical raw materials value chain and share our commitment to advancing technological development to shape a more sustainable future for the transport sector,” GEM founder and chairperson Professor Xu Kaihua stated in a release to Mining Weekly.

GEM has had more than two decades of experience in recycling batteries and electronics and has invested heavily in understanding the processes needed to recover raw materials essential for the energy transition.

Anglo’s diversified portfolio includes a range of products for the decarbonisation of transport, a sector which it estimates accounts for more than 15% of global emissions.

“We are collaborating with leaders in the sector to explore new technologies that build on the physical qualities of our portfolio of products to help tackle some of the key challenges facing the industry and contribute to the sustainable scale-up of electric vehicle travel,” Anglo base metals and marketing executive head Paul Ward stated.

“Our work in this space is part of our commitment to supply our customers with products tailored to their specific needs and that capitalise on the opportunities offered by ongoing technological innovation,” Ward added.

China is calculated to be the world's largest electric vehicle market, with an expected eight-million vehicles sold last year.

Already a key partner to the automotive industry, Anglo’s platinum group metals (PGMs) enable catalytic converters to strip pollutants from car exhaust gases as emissions regulators become ever more stringent.

Anglo has also been an early supporter of the hydrogen economy, advocating for more widespread adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) - a zero-emission option catalysed by the PGMs it mines.

The world-first haulage truck powered by green hydrogen was introduced by Anglo American Platinum at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine in South Africa's Limpopo province.

PGMs recycling is advancing strongly in China with the new BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource facility in Pinghu opening this month and 2018 seeing the opening of a PGMs-recycling facility in China’s Nanjing by South Africa-linked Heraeus, which is mastering the thrifting of PGMs to optimise their cost-effectiveness.

BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource GM Nancy (Ying) Ren highlighted the launch of the PGMs recycling facility in Pinghu as being pivotal for the broader context of China's industrial and environmental roadmap.

Incidentally, while Toyota’s FCEV Mirai car continues to advance on the FCEV front, this year will reportedly see a new Honda FCEV enter the automotive fray in the form of the zero-emission CR-V FCEV.

PGMS AND HYDROGEN IN SOUTH AFRICA

The hydrogen economy is an important new growth area for PGMs and, in turn, PGMs are pivotal for hydrogen production and application across a broad front.

Heraeus Precious Metals new business development executive VP Dr Philipp Walter this month highlighted the strong global current momentum of the hydrogen economy – “politically, socially and technologically”.

In South Africa, it is estimated that the hydrogen economy has the potential to add 3.6% to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, along with 370 000 jobs.

South Africa is already acting with purpose to harness the potential of green hydrogen and if investment is significantly scaled up, green hydrogen can deliver the equivalent of more than one-third of Africa’s current energy consumption, increase the collective GDP, improve clean energy supply and empower communities.

The Southern African region already has 33 green hydrogen-linked projects charted, 26 of them in eight provinces in South Africa and seven in Namibia. This region has world-class conditions for generating renewable energy through solar and wind power, which are key drivers of the production of green hydrogen.

Innovative financing structures, sourced from multiple stakeholders, are available for green hydrogen projects that can collectively provide energy sovereignty and export opportunities.

To date, the largest public finance commitment to South Africa’s green hydrogen sector is the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). Conceived as an $8.5-billion multi-donor agreement, JETP is a novel climate finance programme to deliver a just transition to affected groups.

Further, through its green ammonia export project in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, the leadership of Hive Hydrogen South Africa intends to show how a just energy transition is possible, Hive Hydrogen chairperson Thulani Gcabashe highlighted at last month’s signing ceremony of the $5.8-billion Coega green hydrogen and green ammonia development.

Hive Hydrogen South Africa and Itochu Corporation of Japan have signed a memorandum of cooperation to advance Hive’s Coega green ammonia export project and have agreed to work together on matters of viable green hydrogen and ammonia project development, production, operation, marketing, offtake and distribution.

Initially, the renewable energy capacity for the development will be around 3.6 GW of solar photovoltaic and onshore wind generation, with further sites identified totalling more than 12 GW for additional phases of the project.

Once the project is operational, which is planned for 2028, the export from Coega of green ammonia, green hydrogen, and potentially also ammonium nitrate, is expected.

The purpose of the memorandum of cooperation, signed at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Gqeberha, is to clearly identify the important areas for Hive and Itochu to engage on, thereby enabling them each to achieve their respective green hydrogen and ammonia business objectives in a strategic, structured, assured and cost-effective manner.

This provides a framework to develop a least-cost green ammonia solution that includes, among other things, Itochu’s potential involvement as a strategic equity investor and offtaker in relation to the project.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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