MiniMines Mixes Lithium Extraction with Circular Economy and UN SDGs

By Anupam Kumar B.Tech***

NEW DELHI (IDN) — In 2018, the notion of circular economy and its inherent link to the UN SDGs gained currency globally especially after the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

UNCTAD defines a circular economy entailing markets that give incentives to recycling and reusing products, rather than scrapping them and then extracting new resources.

Circular economy helps not only in efficient use of resources but also helps protect the environment, a prominent theme of COP 26 conference, and develop new sectors, create jobs, and develop new capabilities.

In the 21st century, renewable energy resources are on a very high demand. It is due to the limitation and protection of natural resources and to keep the environment pollution free.

Such renewable energy sources require storage devices for long time use of such generated energy. Li-Ion Batteries and Lead Acid Battery play a crucial role for such energy storage applications.

However, Li-Ion Batteries have an advantage over Lead Acid Battery as of having 5x life cycles, faster charging, higher capacity, smaller battery size, zero maintenance, better efficiency, higher depth of discharge and a clean energy solution.

The prototype of Li-Ion Battery (LIB) was developed by Akira Yoshino in 1985 and the commercial Li-ion battery was developed by a Sony and Asahi Kasei team led by Yoshio Nishi in 1991.

In the near future battery technology will be the keystone of the energy transition; facilitating the de-carbonization of economy. The need for clean energy will demand an increasing use of Li-Ion Batteries (LIB).

However, the availability of Lithium is extremely limited in nature. It is found mostly in 5-6 countries e.g., Chile, Argentina, Australia, China, Zimbabwe, and Portugal.

Lithium is usually extracted via evaporation of large brine pools or from hard-rock extraction of its ore Spodumene. These extraction processes requires lots of energy consumption and CO2 emission.

In addition, the short life cycle (5-8 years) of these LIBs causes hundreds of thousands of tons of these batteries ready for dumping into landfills causing air, water and soil pollution and an immense load on natural resources.

The lack of Lithium resources, short life cycle of LIBs, dumping in open environment and high demand of Electric Vehicles (EVs) require an environment friendly recycling process to get battery grade Li, Co, Ni, Mn and other metals thus reducing the dependence on natural ore and foreign imports.

If recycled properly, these spent batteries can provide base materials for at least 60% of indigenous cell production.

Hydrometallurgical and Pyrometallurgy are two main methods available in the market for recycling of LIBs but neither of them is sustainable or cost effective. In addition, they also create a lot of solid waste discharge, harmful gases and cause a significant increase in the carbon footprint.

The world leaders promised a reduction of carbon and greenhouse gases emissions at COP26 in Glasgow for sustainable future, and the use of Green Recycling Technologies can actually make a huge impact in achieving the same.

It requires recycling to be a unique close loop, sustainable and cost effective process.

Such a feat has been successfully achieved by MiniMines Cleantech Solution Pvt. Ltd. in July 2021, which is a Jaipur, Rajasthan based startup in India.  The company is developing new and advanced solutions for current problems using their expertise in process development and energy storage.

The team of MiniMines comprises Anupam Kumar, Arvind Bhardwaj, Ajay Saini and Srishti Kumawat who are experts in product development, new business development, client collaboration, commercialization (lab to market), technology transfer and sophisticated instruments handling.

It has expertise in Nanotechnology, Materials Science and Chemistry (electrochemistry, drug discovery, catalysis for CO2 reduction) and has  years of working experience in various R&D laboratories such as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, ONRG Singapore, India Coast Guards, TheraChem Research MediLab, Academic Institute (Manipal University Jaipur), and Startups including Log9materials, Nanomatrix Materials.

MiniMines has published over 15 peer-reviewed scientific publications and has also filed for an IP-protected technology for Lithium Extraction from waste batteries.

The sustainable and unique hybrid hydrometallurgical method developed by MiniMines for LIB recycling is to get battery grade Anode and Cathode materials.

The highly efficient patented process that has standardized the parameters is being recognized as a tool which presents solutions to some of the world’s most pressing cross-cutting sustainable development challenges.

The start-up MiniMines is mentored by Deep Chandra Joshi, ex-Chief of the National Research Development Corporation, Government of India and Manish Uprety F.R.A.S., ex-diplomat and special adviser of ALCAP for Asia and Africa.

In March 2022, the MiniMines extended its support to the Atal Incubation  Center under the auspices of NITI Aayog which serves as the apex public policy think tank of the Government of India to contribute towards the Culture of Innovation and start-ups in India.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as the world transitions toward the EV revolution, it needs battery manufacturing capacity of 1,000-Gigawatthour (GWh) per year by 2025 to meet the global target for electric vehicle (EV) transition.

Like other countries of the world, India is also geared up for its Li-ion battery revolution and will be needing battery manufacturing capacity 50–60-Gigawatt hour (GWh) till 2025 to become self-reliant.

Market research suggests that the global LIB market size is estimated to grow USD 94.4 billion by 2025 with CAGR of 16.4%. According to the World Economic Forum around 300,000 tons of batteries are expected to be available for recycling by the end of 2030.

The LIB recycle market is valued to be more than USD 10 billion by 2030. The global recycled battery production market is estimated to reach 4800 kilo tons by 2030.

MiniMines is a part of the revolution in the Electric Vehicle ecosystem to create a circular economy for energy storage devices (LIB), which includes sourcing and collection of the spent batteries and recovery of precious battery-grade materials. The complete ecosystem is based on advanced research and environmentally sustainable processes.

To disseminate its IP-protected technology and proprietary closed loop method to extract Lithium across the globe, MiniMines is also exploring and negotiating a Transfer of Technology (TOT) arrangement with leading companies in France and South America.

A wonderful example of Make in India for the world, MiniMines is looking to collaborate with reputed stakeholders who are E-waste generators, and institutions and corporations who are into research and environmental issues to take the technology forward as it incorporates an environmentally clean approach which doesn’t have any harmful emissions, and caters to the UN SDGs and carbon neutrality. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 March 2022]

*** Anupam Kumar B.Tech is the Founder of MiniMines Cleantech Solution Pvt. Ltd.

Image credit: MiniMines

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