What do these have in common? They have a special element inside. It is also a fundamental component of many of our green technologies. An electrical car battery can require between 4 and 12 kilograms of this material. Still don’t know? This crucial metal is cobalt.
As a result of cobalt being present in numerous applications that support the shift to a low-carbon economy, the demand for cobalt is rapidly increasing. But where does this cobalt come from? Currently, the European Union imports about 65% of its cobalt needs, approximately 10,000 tones per year, from countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, or Central African Republic. Only 35% is produced from secondary sources, such as the recycling of spent batteries, super alloys and hard metals. As a result, the European Commission considers cobalt as a critical raw material.
The CROCODILE project aims to drastically reduce the supply risk of cobalt for the European industries by developing an innovative and efficient recovery process for cobalt. We strive to do so with lower energy costs and environmental impacts, providing solutions with low capital investment costs. And finally, we want to maximize the exploitation of our local waste.
Different innovative metallurgical systems are used depending on the properties of the elements in the waste stream: physicochemical properties such as melting point for pyro-metallurgy, solubility for hydro- and solvo-metallurgy and electrical properties and conductivity for electrometallurgy. A combination of these innovative methodologies allow for a smart recovery of cobalt from a wide variety of secondary and primary European resources. The project is optimizing and combining these technologies into a compact, commercial mobile system which could allow European industries to test a new way to recycle cobalt from their available resources, without having to do a large investment in a new plant.
To ensure a successful outcome, the project is establishing solid interactions between all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, research communities, policymakers, media, industry and local citizens living near the operations. They all play a crucial role in the future of resource recovery or resource extraction. CROCODILE – the smart way to recover cobalt.