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U.S. Launches Battery Recycling R&D Center To Boost Energy Security

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Thursday that the United States is launching a battery recycling research and development (R&D) center, aiming to reduce its reliance on foreign supply of critical minerals such as cobalt and lithium.

“America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical materials undermines our energy security and national security,” Secretary Perry said in a statement.

Together with the Battery Recycling R&D Center, the Department of Energy is also announcing the launch of a Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize, whose goal is to develop technologies to profitably capture 90 percent of all lithium-based battery technologies in the United States. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5 percent, according to the DOE.

The recycling contest will award cash prizes of a total of US$5.5 million to contestants who find innovative solutions to collecting, storing, and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling, the DOE said.

The United States will invest US$15 million in a Lithium Battery R&D Recycling Center, which will work on cost-effective recycling processes to recover lithium battery materials. The Center will be led by Argonne National Laboratory along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The purpose of the prize and R&D center will be to reclaim and recycle critical materials such as cobalt and lithium from lithium-based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy storage, and transportation applications.

“Critical materials such as lithium and cobalt are both expensive and dependent on foreign sources for production,” the DOE said.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt and mines more than 60 percent of the cobalt globally. The African country has recently declared the mineral a “strategic” commodity and raised royalty rates for mining companies.

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The world’s biggest producers of lithium are Australia, Chile, and Argentina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Commodity Summaries.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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