Tag Archives: Lithium-ion batteries

Opening speaker and keynotes secured for ALTA 2020

The ALTA 2020 conference is shaping up nicely, with new opening and keynote speakers just announced for its 25th anniversary event.

Stedman Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of Future Battery Industries CRC (Australia), is set to open the conference with a paper titled, “A Research-Based Strategy for Establishing Australia as a Leading Player in the Emerging Global Battery Industry”.

Meanwhile, John Neale, Technical Specialist at Mintek (South Africa), is set to take on the nickel-cobalt-copper keynote with a talk titled: ‘Bioleaching of Nickel and Cobalt – The Progress and The Potential’.

The annual metallurgical event, to be held in Perth, Western Australia, on May 23-30, will also include a uranium-REE keynote from Darryl Butcher, Director of BDB Process (Australia). Butcher will present, ‘Review of Membrane Technology as a Process Tool’ at the event. The gold and precious metal keynote will come from Karel Osten, Independent Consultant at Mettko Pty Ltd (Australia), who will go some way to answering: ‘POX – Has it Reached its Full Potential, or is There Still Room for Improvement for Treating Refractory Gold Ores?’

The in-situ recovery keynote is yet to be announced, but Professor Peter Talbot, from the Institute for Future Environments at Queensland University of Technology (Australia), has the honour in the lithium and battery technology session. His paper is titled: ‘The Creation and Implications of Australia’s First Lithium-Ion Battery’.

For more information on ALTA 2020, follow the website here: www.altamet.com.au/conferences/alta-2020/

International Mining is a media sponsor of ALTA 2020

India’s first all-electric, heavy-duty truck ready for 2020 launch, reports say

Infraprime Logistics Technologies (IPLT) says India’s first all-electric, heavy-duty 60-t truck has had its initial commercial run, with a launch for the country’s construction and mining sectors scheduled for next year, according to local reports.

IPLT says its electric truck, the IPLT Rhino 5536, is the first of its kind to be integrated and deployed in India.

Some of its distinguishing features include the transmission based electric drivetrain, proprietary vehicle control software for improved mileage in material logistics and a battery pack “designed for optimal performance in local conditions”.

The latter has an in-built air-conditioned secondary cooling system to maintain the temperature around each cell at below 35° C even when ambient temperature climbs above 50° C, according to the company. IPLT said the 265 kWh battery pack weighs in at more than 2 t, making it one of the largest packs in use in India, and a 160-kW “twin gun fast charging” system is used to recharge it. This system, it says, could also offer a “blueprint for a pan-India network” of charging devices, it said.

LiuGong highlights battery-electric vehicles and 5G connected tech at BICES 2019

LiuGong has used the backdrop of the 15th Beijing International Construction Machinery Exhibition & Seminar (BICES 2019) in China to launch a new range of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) as well as remote controlled ‘intelligent’ wheel loaders based on 5G technology.

At BICES 2019, LiuGong is showing three BEVs, including two excavators – the 906E-EV and 922F-EV – and the company’s star wheel loader, the 856H-EV (pictured).

While not all these machines will be big enough to have mining applications, LiuGong explained that the units were very much the start of a platform that could see bigger machines manufactured.

Edward Wagner, Executive Director of LiuGong New Technology, said the total operating cost of a battery powered earthmover is, or soon will be, “depending on the exact vehicle design and customer application, lower than that of a diesel-powered machine”.

LiuGong’s new BEVs are designed for the new electric economy, it said, with a state-of- art, but well proven, lithium-ion battery system for energy storage.

“That power is directed into super high efficiency permanent magnet electric motors to create the motion necessary to drive the machines,” it said. “The machine’s mechanical and hydraulic systems have been optimised for high efficiency: a typical BEV will have peak power output that is two times a conventional diesel power machine. This enables the battery electric earthmovers to accelerate faster and perform more coordinated movements.”

These movements will also be more precise given the full electronic vehicle control, according to LiuGong. “More powerful, quicker and more precise all add up to more productivity, which is raised more than 10% compared to that of a diesel machine,” the company said.

These lithium-ion batteries are designed to last the full life of the machine and eliminate the daily maintenance and regular service routine that comes with diesel engines.

The first generation of LiuGong’s BEVs batteries are equipped with fast charging technology and innovative energy-saving technologies, according to the company. This sees them need only one hour to charge the battery to 80% capacity.

Zeng Guang’an, Chairman of LiuGong Group, at the launch ceremony for LiuGong’s BEVs, said: “We are committed to creating more value for our customers. And that is why LiuGong will never stop independent innovation.”

The LiuGong’s 906E-EV excavator is an example of how quickly and easily a diesel machine can be converted to battery electric, the company said. This machine uses most of the diesel excavator’s hydraulic system allowing for a very rapid conversion time. It is equipped with a battery large enough for a full working day, according to the company.

The new 922F-EV excavator is driven purely by electric power, with the battery pack located centrally in the rear for optimum mass balance. The electric motor and hydraulic system have been optimally packaged to maximise operator visibility, LiuGong says. “The result is industry leading operator visibility which will further enhance performance and efficiency.”

A feature of the new 856H-EV wheel loader is a pure electric driveline with regeneration. This improves operating performance and reduces the energy consumption.

LiuGong explained: “The hydraulic system is electrically driven while using proven off the shelf components. Performance is incredible given the 300-plus-kW peak power capability.”

All three machines are designed using a new platform strategy, which means a very high degree of commonality of parts and systems across all LiuGong’s new energy machines. “This simplification of parts will further lower the total cost of ownership,” it said.

LiuGong introduced the company’s first intelligent shovel remote control wheel loader at its 60th anniversary celebration last year and, at BICES, it has presented its new 5G-based remote-control intelligent wheel loader, co-developed and supported by China Telecom and Huawei technology.

According to Cai Dengsheng, Deputy Chief Engineer of LiuGong’s Intelligent Technology Institution, the model can be remotely controlled from over 2,000 km away, compared with 2 km as of last year, realising real-time response and accurate control through the 5G network.

This 5G network is the most advanced network communication technology in the world with only 30 millisecond data transition from Beijing to Liuzhou, according to LiuGong. “Meanwhile, the transmission quality or stability are not influenced by either a complex environment or long transition time,” the company said. “It is the best technical solution for timely, efficient and high-quality transmissions of large amounts of data.”

The company added: “It provides a high-quality network environment and network technology support for LiuGong’s remote control driving research and provides strong support for the combination of edge calculation and cloud computing in intelligent control under remote control conditions.

“As one of the few Chinese construction machinery companies that has mastered the 5G technology, LiuGong is expected to realise remote-control driving from even longer distances under this platform.”

In addition, LiuGong’s intelligent shovelling wheel loader can sense material penetration; has one bottom loading and dumping function, along with auto levelling and controllable placement of the bucket. It also features an intelligent throttle control system, the company said.

Under remote-control driving mode, all operations can be observed from the videos that are sent back by the machines’ cameras. It also applies the intelligent protection technology to realise automatic identification and auto emergency stop.

As a result, the machine can not only be used in its normal applications, but also can be applied in dangerous and unsafe environments such as rescue and disaster relief.

F-Series excavators

In addition to the BEV and 5G releases, LiuGong used the event to launch four new excavators in its F-Series range that have mining applications.

The 922F is a new-generation 22-ton hydraulic excavator. It and the other F-Series vehicles come with a fully electronically controlled hydraulic system and intelligent heat dissipation technology, with the excavator boasting high operating efficiency, low oil consumption and low noise.

It has “unique engine matching technology and new P/S/E mode ensure higher efficiency and low oil consumption”, the company said.

The company also launched the 926F 25-ton hydraulic excavator, the 936F 36-ton excavator with 1.7 cu.m bucket and the 92-ton 990F excavator which comes with a heavy-duty structure and optimised crushing design.

EIB backing drives forward Northvolt lithium-ion gigafactory plan

A supplier of lithium-ion batteries to the mining equipment space, Northvolt, has recently received conditional backing from the European Investment Bank for a €350 million ($385 million) loan that could finance Europe’s first home-grown gigafactory.

Northvolt said the EIB had provided an in-principle agreement for the financing – the largest ever direct EIB financing approval for battery technology – and, upon conclusion of a loan agreement, the funding would be supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

The Northvolt Ett lithium-ion battery cell gigafactory will be established in Skellefteå, northern Sweden, a region home to a prominent raw material and mining cluster with a long history of process manufacturing and recycling.

“Noting the region’s clean power base, building the factory in northern Sweden will enable Northvolt to utilise 100% renewable energy within its production processes,” Northvolt said.

Northvolt already supplies lithium-ion batteries to Epiroc for its battery-electric underground mining vehicles and is believed to supply at least one of other major mining OEM.

EIB Vice-President, Andrew McDowell, said: “The development of a competitive and green battery value chain within Europe can not only cut greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonising power generation and transport, but can also help protect millions of well paid jobs in European industries in the face of increasing global competition.”

Northvolt Ett will serve as Northvolt’s primary production site, hosting active material preparation, cell assembly, recycling and auxiliaries. The construction of the first quarter of the factory is expected to be completed in 2020. Ramping up to full capacity, Northvolt Ett will produce 32 GWh/y of battery capacity, the company said.

Peter Carlsson, Co-Founder and CEO of Northvolt, said: “This EIB in principle approval is a key moment in the process of finalising our capital raise to support the establishment of Northvolt Ett. Today, we are one step closer to our goal of building the greenest batteries in the world and enabling the European transition to a decarbonised future.”

The capital raise, in which this EIB loan would be included, will finance the establishment of the first 16 GWh of battery capacity production, with the batteries from Northvolt Ett targeted for use in automotive, grid storage, and industrial and portable applications.

Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, said: “Today’s decision by the EIB is very gratifying and a big step towards a large-scale battery production in the EU and a fossil-free welfare society. The decision shows that there are prerequisites in Sweden for sustainable battery production, it is important for Sweden and the rest of the EU to produce battery materials and battery cells, based on green, Swedish electricity.”

Lithium Australia’s VSPC subsidiary achieves world first with mine waste

Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned subsidiary VSPC Ltd has completed a world first; producing lithium-ion battery cathode material and lithium-ion batteries from tri-lithium phosphate that came directly from mine waste.

The feat was achieved using VSPC’s ground-breaking SiLeach® process, which removes the requirement for generation of high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate – long seen as one of the most cost-intensive and challenging steps in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries.

The tri-lithium phosphate was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material at the advanced electrochemical laboratory and pilot plant facility in Brisbane, Queensland, operated by VSPC.

The cathode material was characterised by X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy and determined to be of similar quality to VSPC-standard lithium-iron-phosphate material. Lithium-ion batteries were subsequently produced and tested under a range of charge and discharge conditions and the cells achieved equivalent performance to VSPC’s advanced cathode powders using lithium carbonate as the manufacturing feed, Lithium Australia reported.

“Battery performance compares very favourably against cells using standard VSPC cathode material produced with industry-standard lithium carbonate,” the company added.

The demonstrated ability to by-pass lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide as battery precursors provides potential to significantly reduce the cost of battery manufacture, according to Lithium Australia.

“Not only that, the use of mine waste in the battery production cycle can provide greater sustainability to global lithium resources.”

The company is also developing the process for direct production of cathode powders from lithium brines to not only eliminate the requirement to produce high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate, but to reduce the requirement for evaporation ponds – one of the more capital-intensive aspects of setting up a lithium brine operation.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said: “The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce lithium-ion battery cathode materials.

“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry, by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide – the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”

Lithium Australia’s VSPC subsidiary has been one of the fastest movers in this growing space, completing a large-scale pilot plant to demonstrate its SiLeach process at commercial scale earlier this year.

The company develops processing technology for the manufacture of nano-scale battery cathode powders (via its subsidiary VSPC), the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and low-energy recovery of lithium and other metals from silicates with its 100%-owned SiLeach hydrometallurgical process.

BPI and Manitou develop battery-powered telehandler

Battery Power Industries (BPI) has provided the battery drive system for Manitou Southern Africa’s first electric telehandler.

Manitou’s battery driven telehandler, the first of its kind, was unveiled earlier this year at Electra Mining Africa 2018, and has already found its first customer, mining infrastructure construction firm TDS Projects Construction.

BPI designed and implemented the conversion of the telehandler from a diesel driven system to a fully electric system using lithium-ion battery technology.

A South Africa OEM specialising in the development of battery energy systems, electrical traction systems and high speed charging systems for underground mining equipment, BPI was launched in 2018.

Calvin Coetzee, BPI Managing Director, said: “We were approached by TDS Projects Construction to design an electrical system for the MHT-790E electric telescopic handler to address their need to eliminate fatigue in the mines associated with diesel particulate emissions, particularly in tight and closed off areas. This is one of many common challenges facing the mining industry that our technology is able to address.”

The transporting of fuel to refuel diesel machines is also challenging in terms of time, cost and accessibility and can be solved by the switch from conventional diesel to electric systems, according to Coetzee.

“Electric machines and equipment can solve these problems without the loss of power or production time. All of this is perfectly illustrated in the MHT-790E electric telescopic handler,” he said.

The MHT-790E electric telescopic handler has a lifting capacity of up to 9 t and a lifting height of up to 6.84 m. The machine is powered by a LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery, known to be one of the safest battery chemistry compositions for its thermal and chemical stability, according to BPI.

The additional advantages of using this type of battery include its low cost, non-toxicity, the natural abundance of iron, safety characteristics and electrochemical performance, according to Coetzee.

“In the MHT-790E electric telescopic handler all of these advantages culminate into a machine with zero emissions and far less heat being produced which protects the health and safety of those working in confined areas such as tunnels and mines.

“It also has a long battery life expectancy of 3,000 cycles and continuous battery shift time of eight hours, combined with a high speed charging time of 90 minutes or on-board charging time of eight hours, to ensure an uninterrupted work shift,” Coetzee adds.

BPI’s system addresses mining ventilation as well. The heat produced by machinery working underground puts pressure on ventilation systems resulting in additional costs for system upgrades.

“Due to the fact that it emits far less heat than a conventional diesel driven machine, the MHT-790E does not put pressure on these systems, resulting in savings on fuel needed to support ventilation as well as savings in upgrade costs,” Coetzee says.

This was achieved with the machine’s built-in active air-cooling system which is completely sealed and cools the air down to keep the battery temperature at optimum levels while the electric motor is cooled via a water cooling method. This system is part of BPI’s ultra-safe design approach to all systems.

Additional safety features built into the MHT-790E telehandler include various detection systems, ensuring that the vehicle slows down should a person, vehicle or obstacle be detected, thus reducing the possibility of accidents. The battery pack included in the MHT-790E is also 3G impact rated, protecting it in the unlikely event of an accident. An automatic fire detection and suppression system specifically designed for lithium-ion battery systems also forms part of the system allowing for the detection and protection of any electrical sparks and smoke, or short circuit overload that may occur.

“BPI’s main objective is to remove all emissions and harmful equipment from use in mining operations as part of our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining. This approach involves the application of cutting-edge technology to address mining’s major challenges,” Coetzee said.

“We firmly believe that our designs are able to outperform traditional diesel-fuelled vehicles on the market and achieve considerable energy cost savings and lower overall machine costs. The launch of the Manitou’s MHT-790E electric telehandler affords us the opportunity to have the return of investment on our electric vehicle systems field proven.”

According to Manitou, the MHT-790E electric telehandler offers a return on investment over a period of just two-to-four years.

Manitou Southern Africa states: “Savings on fuel, possible fuel rebates and reduced maintenance costs, as opposed to maintenance on a diesel powered vehicle, all contribute to the cost effectiveness of the machine. The estimated running cost of the MHT-790E is 32% of a diesel equivalent which, combined with the multi-functionality of a telescopic handler and an array of available attachments, is a truly cost effective solution for the mining and construction industries.”

BPI’s team was challenged with a turnaround time of just three months to complete the project – from conceptualization through to design, procurement, manufacturing construction, assembly and, finally, commissioning.

The first MHT-790E electric telehandler was purchased by TDS Projects Construction, who will be using it in its underground operations.

IM is running The Electric Mine conference in Toronto on April 4-5, 2019, which will cover battery-powered technologies for both open pit and underground mines. To find out more about the event, please click here.

Argosy produces first ‘battery grade’ lithium carbonate at Rincon

Argosy Minerals has hit its first major milestone at the Rincon lithium project in Salta province, Argentina, producing its first “battery grade” carbonate.

Its 500 t/y stage one plant completed production of some 30 kg of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) product that, Argosy says, is representative of its initial specification for delivery to end-users.

The product, tested in-house, recorded a Li2CO3 content value of 99.6%.

Following in-house testing, the company, which owns 77.5% of Rincon, is preparing samples to send to international cathode and battery-makers for their own due dilligence. This is likely to lead to talks on offtake agreements for stage one output at Rincon.

Argosy Managing Director Jerko Zuvela said: “We believe our chemical process pathway is efficient and scalable, and the success being announced today bodes well for the continued development of stages two and three at the Rincon lithium project.”

While stage one work is ongoing, the company’s stage two project could see Argosy progress construction works for an additional circa-24 hectares of evaporation ponds, finalise an initial JORC resource estimate, progress works to prepare a preliminary economic assessment, execute purchase agreements for mining properties currently under option and start stage two plant construction for a 1,500 t/y LCE project.

Following this, commercial production is planned for stage three.

Primero takes the lead on Mina do Barroso lithium feasibility study

Primero Group is to run the numbers at Savannah Resources 75%-owned Mina do Barroso lithium project in Portugal after being awarded the lead role for the upcoming feasibility study.

The feasibility will build on the recently released scoping study, which envisaged the building of a $109 million, 1.3 million tonne per year run of mine project able to produce around 175,000 t/y of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate and generate a base case, post-tax net present value (8% discount) of $241 million.

Primero has already established a name in the lithium hard-rock space, having worked on the assessment, design, delivery and operation of global projects. It is currently being partnered with Tawana Resources, Galaxy Resources and Pilbara Minerals in Western Australia, in addition to Piedmont Lithium in the US.

The feasibility study will cover the project setting, geology and resource definition, mining, metallurgy, processing, infrastructure, market review, capital and operating cost estimates, financial modelling, human resources, environmental, social aspects, project approvals, project risk review and project development plans.

A mine and concentrator plant model will be developed based around Mina do Barroso’s deposits for the production of a lithium concentrate with additional ceramic co-products. The scoping study anticipated open-pit mining of the 14.42Mt (at 1.07% Li₂O) inferred resource, and processing via a combination of dense media separation and flotation to produce a spodumene concentrate for export sale.

Primero will be supported by various sub-consultants to provide specialist design services for specific areas of the project, but the consultant already has multi-disciplinary engineering teams with a deep understanding of lithium projects, according to Savannah.

Savannah anticipates the study results being available towards the end of the March quarter of 2019, keeping the company on track for first production from Mina do Barroso by 2020.

Pilgangoora lithium-tantulum project on track for first shipment in August

The commissioning of the Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia has continued, with the company racking up 1,000 tonnes of coarse and fines concentrate from its plant.

Plant performance, component operation and timing are all in line with expectations, with Pilgangoora on track for the first shipment of next month.

Pilbara Minerals’ project is expected to produce around 330,000 tonnes per year of spodumene concentrate when phase one is complete. A phase two expansion could see this rise to more than 800,000 t/y.

The company produced first coarse (dense-heavy media separation circuit) concentrate last month (pictured).

With both primary sub-circuits (fines and coarse) successfully commissioned, fines concentrates can undergo final processing through the dressing circuit, which is one of the last sub-systems to be commissioned within the concentrator.

Pilbara Minerals Managing Director and CEO Ken Brinsden said all of the plant’s components had, so far, met or exceeded expectations.

“The extensive planning and due-diligence undertaken by our engineering, construction and production teams is now well and truly paying dividends as we progressively bring the plant on line and ramp-up its capacity,” he said.

CSIRO calls for new Australian lithium-ion battery recycling industry

Australia should add lithium-ion battery recycling to its hardrock mining and processing expertise, according to a report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

The report, ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’, says the country could lead the world in battery recycling and re-use, tackling its annual 3,300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste in the process.

This waste is growing 20% each year as consumer demand for portable and rechargeable electronic equipment and electric vehicles accelerates. As it stands only 2% is recycled – all of which happens overseas.

The report estimates  Australia is losing out on between A$813 million and A$3 billion of value based on current day commodity prices from not recycling the batteries. That is down to the valuable cobalt, lithium, base and other metals and graphite that could be reused.

And, the waste problem is getting worse. At the 2016 rate of generating 3,300 t of waste, the amount could exceed 100,000 t by 2036.

“Low battery recycling rates can be overcome through better understanding of the importance of recycling, improved collection processes, and by implementing ways to efficiently recycle materials,” CSIRO’s report said.

An effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand, according to the report.

It estimates that, if recycled, 95 % of components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries. In comparison, of the 150,000 t of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 % were recycled.

As it stands, the majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the waste that remains left in landfill. This leads to potential fires, environmental contamination, and risk to human health.

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

CSIRO battery research leader Dr Anand Bhatt said: “As a world leader in the adoption of solar and battery systems, we must responsibly manage our use of lithium-ion technology in support of our clean energy future; CSIRO has set out a pathway to do this.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling.”

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes to support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” he said.