Tech & Science 'Urban mining' in South Korea pulls rare battery materials from recycled tech

15:55  12 april  2018
15:55  12 april  2018 Source:   Reuters

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About 150 small-and-medium sized companies do urban mining , according to the Korea Urban Mining Association. At SungEel HiTech, the process is not complex or highly automated. After workers pull batteries from recycled devices

Urban mining is still in its infancy and recycling rare earths is just beginning, but if China continues to limit exports and the demand for such material increases we should see improved efforts to find viable solutions. Clean Tech .

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Lithium, China, South Korea and Japan. So will a prominent alternative: “ urban mining ,” a k a recycling of rare earths and other materials from used electronic devices.” [Krugman, Op.

The main destination countries for Japanese exports are South Korea (33 %), China (17 %), Taiwan (15 %), Thailand (14 %) and USA (9 %). 11.2 Recycling of rare earths from batteries . This knowledge might be necessary in order to build up a large-scale urban mining on rare earths and to

Workers at a rural South Korean factory are busy extracting some of the world's most coveted metals, used in the batteries that power electric cars.

But they're not digging in the ground or refining ore. Instead, they are sorting through a pile of lithium-ion batteries from old mobile phones and laptops.

As China’s aggressive hunt for overseas cobalt and lithium for electric vehicles pushes up prices and causes a global shortage of the key metals, South Korea is increasingly turning to such "urban mining" to recover cobalt, lithium and other scarce metals from electronic waste.

In 2016, the most recent year from which data is available, 19.6 trillion won ($18.38 billion) worth of metals were extracted from recycled materials, meeting roughly 22 percent of the country's total metal demand, according to a report by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology.

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The rare metal "reserves" in Korea 's urban mines could total 85,800 tons, SERI said. One high- tech company plans to source 10% of its rare earths from recycled sources. SERI said urban mining business requires advanced technology and close coordination between the government and

Apple aims to stop mining raw materials and use those that are 100% recycled . Once processed, the cobalt is sold to battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea , which supply the multinationals.

SungEel HiTech is South Korea's largest battery recycler. A decade ago, the company was at a crossroads as plasma TV panels, from which it extracted gold and silver, began to phase out.

Now it is part of a supply chain for some of the world's major battery makers, including Samsung SDI and LG Chem.

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Bravly practice to create GEM mode of " urban mining " in China. GEM recycling battery materials has successfully entered into the world magnate supply chains including South Korea ’s Samsung SDI and ECOPRO,and blended into international supply system.

Large amounts of foreign garbage mostly from China, Taiwan and South Korea , wash up on Japan’s shores on the Sea of Japan. Recycling Plastic, Platinum and Organic Materials in Japan. Urban Mining in Japan. “ Urban mines ” have been set up to extract rare metals such as platinum and

For graphic click: https://tmsnrt.rs/2qvJoED

Yi Kang-myung, SungEel HiTech's president, said the shortage of mined metals had led his company to boost capacity by threefold this year. It plans to list in 2020.

"We are receiving phone calls from many who are showing interest," Yi said in an interview at the plant.

"Major automobile companies are interested in our products,: he said, without naming the automakers. He added that battery companies and POSCO, a South Korean steelmaker, are interested in getting into the recycling business themselves.

The scarcity is unlikely to abate anytime soon, as China, the world's biggest user of metals, snaps up mineral resources in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chile.

JUMPING DEMAND

SungEel HiTech, based in the southwestern city of Gunsan, can process about 8,000 tonnes per year of spent lithium-ion batteries and metal scraps.

From that, it can produce about 830 tonnes of lithium phosphate, 1,000 tonnes of cobalt metal equivalent and 600 tonnes of nickel.

POSCO processes lithium phosphate from SungEel to produce lithium carbonate for rechargeable battery makers LG and Samsung, according to SungEel and POSCO.

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Urban Mining in Japan. “ Urban mines ” have been set up to extract rare metals such as platinum and tungsten from cell phones and other small household With recycled electronics, the circuit boards tend to be the most valuable. Cell phones contain more than 10 kinds of rare materials and metals.

So far, South Korea ’s public strategy has focused on supply-side growth with little focus on substitution or Developed by China’s Jiangxi South Rare Earth Hi- Tech , ammonium The DoE has funded R&D on rare earths and critical materials for several years, particularly in rare earths recycling

The battery recycler plans to increase its processing capacity to 24,000 tonnes by 2019 and expand further in 2021, including growing its overseas operations, Yi said.

The company, however, is smaller than foreign competitors such as China's Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium and GEM Co, and Belgium's Umicore SA (UMI.BR).

Over the past three years, South Korea's imports of key metals for lithium-ion batteries have jumped, according to data from state-run Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources. In 2017, South Korea imported 3.5 million tonnes of nickel, up 2 percent from 2016. Cobalt imports rose 3.4 percent to 13,972 tonnes from a year ago.

Cobalt prices (CBDO) jumped to average $87,615 a tonne in March, about a four-fold increase from January 2016.

That has led to more long-term supply contracts and investments in developing mines, as well as recycling efforts. Samsung SDI may start its own recycling business, a company spokesman said.

Park Jai-koo, an urban mining expert at Hanyang University in Seoul, said electronic waste recycling can help mitigate high prices and limit reliance on outside sources for rare metals.

"South Korea needs to secure resources but mostly all of them are imported," Park said. "Urban mining is more likely to become a way to go."

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South Korea also has a huge domestic market for rare earths and attempts to find cost- efficient methods to meet its industrial demand. From Hitachi High- Tech Analytical Science 4 Apr 2018. Sulfur Speciation in Mining Leachate using Ion Chromatography.

Industrial scrap materials , at a plant in Japan. Image Credit: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao. The Potential of Urban Mining . Urban mining presents an opportunity to reclaim and recycle precious metals and REEs that are used in prolific consumer and communication goods.

DIFFERENCE MAKER

About 150 small-and-medium sized companies do urban mining, according to the Korea Urban Mining Association.

At SungEel HiTech, the process is not complex or highly automated. After workers pull batteries from recycled devices, the units are drained of power and then ground into a powder from which individual metals can be separated.

Most of the products that are recycled - 60 to 70 percent - come from the United States and Europe, with the remainder from South Korea.

The recycling companies mainly focus on extracting precious metals like gold and silver. But four, including SungEel HiTech, can directly recover cobalt or produce powders from which rare metals can be extracted.

South Korea's environment ministry changed regulations in January to promote recycling by charging higher prices for waste disposal.

Yum Un-joo, chairman of the Korea Urban Mining Association, said recycled resources, if developed correctly, could be a difference maker for the industry and for his country.

"For South Korea, we don't have an option but if we have recycled resources, that could be our strength," Yum said.

(Reporting By Jane Chung and Ju-min Park; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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