HomeWorldElectric car batteries could boost Glencore's recycling operationsSEDI News

Electric car batteries could boost Glencore’s recycling operationsSEDI News

A growing market for electric vehicle batteries is expected to boost Glencore’s recycling operations in Sudbury, Ont.

- Advertisement -

The mining giant has been recycling metals at its Sudbury smelter for 32 years.

Sari Muinonen, Glencore’s custom feed manager in Sudbury, says the company has had excess capacity at its smelter for decades, which it uses to melt “super alloys.”

Those alloys, which come from things like aircraft engine turbines or even machine shop parts, are melted down, granulated and shipped to a facility in Norway, where they are separated into their base elements, such as nickel and cobalt.

Muinonen said about 25 percent of its smelter capacity is used to process nickel from its Sudbury mines. Another 50 percent is devoted to nickel from company-owned mines in Quebec. The remaining metals are available for recycling.

She said the recycling piece is already an important part of business in Sudbury.

“Some of these elements have concentrations of nickel and cobalt much higher than concentrates,” Muinonen said.

“So the value of contained metal is very interesting for us to watch. It’s a small amount, but it’s very rich per ton or per kilo of feedstock.”

A woman wearing an orange coverall stands in front of a smelter with molten metal.
Glencore’s smelter in Sudbury has been using its excess capacity to recycle metals for 32 years. (Marcus Schwabe/CBC)

But as electric vehicles become more common, the batteries used to power them, which contain elements such as nickel, cobalt and lithium, should increase the amount of material available for recycling.

“Right now we can’t imagine Tesla batteries coming out of a vehicle and landing here on our doorstep. But with some pretreatment processes, we certainly have the opportunity to bring that stuff in,” Muinonen said.

Peter Xavier, vice president of Glencore’s Sudbury integrated nickel operations, told CBC News in March that the company is in regular contact with automakers to supply materials needed to build more electric vehicles.

“For us in the industry, you know, we always knew we were critically important,” he said.

“And we produce the things we produce for a reason; because the world needs them and there is a specific purpose behind them.”