19 Jun 2023 09:28

Russia must build lithium production chain from mining to recycling, like for uranium - Rosatom

MOSCOW. June 19 (Interfax) - Rosatom is trying to build the same kind of complete process chain for lithium that it has for uranium, from mining the ore to recycling the waste, the Russian state nuclear corporation's first deputy CEO, Kirill Komarov said at a St. Petersburg International Economic Forum session on mineral resource management.

"It's extremely important, in addition to mining lithium in the country, firstly, to actively diversify it - to mine both in the country and abroad, and to bring our best technologies," Komarov said.

"But then we need to see the whole chain. This is why [...] we're working on creating whole production processes, the top of which will be a gigafactory, the first in Russia and largest factory for production of batteries with capacity of 4 GW in Kaliningrad Region. It will already be built in 2025," Komarov said.

"One of our seven plants that we're building under the program to manage Class I and II hazardous industrial waste will be completely devoted specifically to recycling batteries. That is, again, on one hand recycle the same lithium as much as possible for new secondary use and, secondly, prevent harm to the environment and people," Komarov said.

He cited the example of Bolivia's approach to granting mining licenses. "They look at the extent to which the solutions being proposed for mining are cost effective and, even more importantly, environmentally acceptable. Because all lithium mining, for example, particularly extraction from brine, is, environmentally speaking, let's say, a delicate form of business. If it's not approached with the right technological solutions, it will lead to very unpleasant consequences," Komarov said.

"Resource and technological sovereignty are achieved, on one hand, through diversification, but with an imperative basis on activities in Russia to refine extraction technology, and on the other hand on building the whole product chain, from raw material not only to the finished product, but also to recycling of this finished product. [...] Only such an approach will give us resilience and stability," Komarov said.

In 2021, Rosatom signed an agreement with mining giant Nornickel on a joint project to develop the Kolmozerskoye lithium deposit, the largest in Russia, with 18.9% of the countries reserves, or 75 million tonnes. The project calls for producing carbonate and lithium hydroxide (45,000 tonnes per year), which are used in production of batteries, among other things. The companies planned to reach design capacity by 2030.

Lithium, one of the key elements in batteries, including for electric vehicles, is not currently mined in Russia.