Key takeaways from the SAIMM Battery Raw Material Conference

Key takeaways from the SAIMM Battery Raw Material Conference

The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) hosted a Battery Raw Materials conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The conference featured sessions on sustainability, processing, recycling and future chemistries and technologies of energy storage as well as South Africa’s position in the lithium-ion battery value chain.

Blue View

The conference had a strong focus on recycling battery raw materials from spent lithium-ion batteries. Recycling was conceptualised as a long-term approach to sustainability and a catalyst to accelerate worldwide carbon neutrality. While only playing a relatively small part in the initial supply chain, its significance and market share will become increasingly important as the industry matures. For South Africa, the delegates noted that a battery recycling supply chain is likely even further away than elsewhere with limited projects under development. Even though various South African institutions are looking into different processing technologies to extract Mn, Co, and Ni from recycled battery material there are multiple challenges to the successful implementation of a domestic recycling loop, such as battery feedstock, processing, efficiency, electricity supply etc.

Manganese and vanadium were key battery metals in focus at the conference, given their prominence in South Africa and their growth potential in lithium-ion and redox flow batteries used in electric vehicles and energy storage systems. Outside of China, South Africa is already a key source of high-purity manganese metal through the Manganese Metal Company (MMC), which is a potential feed for battery-grade chemicals. The company is also developing directly from ore manganese sulphate flowsheets to target the battery market.  For vanadium, South African company Bushveld Minerals’ spin-off Bushveld Energy is a key driver in addressing the challenges for the adoption of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) in energy storage. Several vanadiferous titano-magnetite (V-Ti-Fe) projects, both in South Africa and elsewhere, are looking to VRFBs to support advancement.

Another topic at the heart of the conference was discussing the opportunities for South African businesses to join the new energy and battery value chain. Project Blue presented a keynote on defining critical material supply chains in the energy transition space within which many of these opportunities lie. Africa is in a unique position as a resource-rich continent to build opportunities on both its Sino-African and ex-China relations. China has a keen eye on African resources to meet its demand, while the USA and EU are focussed on developing supply chains independent of China. However, investing in Africa remains a challenge and South Africa has failed to capture significant international investments in mining for some time. Nevertheless, the established ability to design, pilot, and test lithium-ion battery and rare earth separation technologies at local research groups shows potential.

  • 31 Aug 2022
  • South Africa
  • Lithium
  • Vanadium
  • Manganese
  • Cobalt
  • Nickel
  • Batteries

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