A smelting facility in Italy is tapped for a conversion to a plant that can repurpose many of the elements in lithium-ion batteries. Partners Li-Cycle and Glencore believe it will be Europe’s largest. Photo courtesy of GlencoreMay 9 (UPI) — North American battery recycler Li-Cycle announced plans Tuesday to partner with mining giant Glencore to build what they said would be the largest source of recycled battery-grade elements on the European continent.The companies outlined plans to conduct a feasibility study on converting one of Glencore’s lead refineries in Portovesme, in the Sardinia region of Italy, into a plant that could recycle lithium, nickel and cobalt — essential elements for lithium-ion batteries.”The planned Portovesme Hub is a landmark project for Europe’s battery recycling industry and is expected to be the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium on the continent,” Tim Johnston, co-founder and executive chair of Li-Cycle, said.The Paris-based International Agency estimates that the Democratic Republic of Congo currently produces 70% of the world’s cobalt, while Australia, Chile and China account for 90% of the total global production of lithium.But developments are advancing quickly. Li-Cycle said it already has infrastructure in place to develop tens of thousands of tons of material used in batteries.The Italian plant could have the capacity to process as much as 70,000 tons a year of a scrap product called black mass for later use in batteries. A feasibility study commences in two months and has a target date of completion by mid-2024.With mining operations centered in a few select countries, Kunal Sinha, the global head of recycling at Glencore, said recycling has a unique role in the energy transition.”It will shorten delivery times, reduce emissions by minimizing the distance of the freight routes and support Italy and Europe’s ambitions to be a global leader in the circular economy,” he said.At home, Li-Cycle in February received a $375 million conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program for a planned commercial materials center in Rochester, N.Y.Li-Cycle said the hub in Rochester could position the company as the leading domestic producer of recycled battery-grade materials.