The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for improved productivity, safety, cost control and sustainability, and the growing importance of recycling in order for sufficient metals and materials to be available to support the global energy transition. In the last three years alone, there have been over 62,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in mining: battery metal recycling. Buy the report here.
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 70,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the mining industry, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Battery metal recycling is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability
Batteries contain a number of heavy metals including some precious metals. Recycling of batteries to extract these metals is a fast-growing industry, especially in growing economies. For example, the nickel in nickel-metal hydride batteries is recovered to make steel. Cobalt, nickel, and copper can be recovered from lithium batteries. Mercury is recovered from mercury cell batteries and the decontaminated steel fraction is used to make steel. Battery recycling industry leaders are offering low-carbon mechanical and hydrometallurgical technologies to recycle battery materials in order to recover lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel for reuse in the production of new batteries.
GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of battery metal recycling.
Key players in battery metal recycling – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry
‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.
‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.
Patent volumes related to battery metal recycling
|Company||Total patents (2010 - 2022)||Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies|
|ENEOS||236||Unlock Company Profile|
|Proterial||40||Unlock Company Profile|
|JFE||38||Unlock Company Profile|
|Nippon Steel||29||Unlock Company Profile|
|POSCO||25||Unlock Company Profile|
|Hyundai Steel||20||Unlock Company Profile|
|Jinchuan Group||17||Unlock Company Profile|
|Outokumpu||16||Unlock Company Profile|
|China Energy Investment||16||Unlock Company Profile|
|Barrick Gold||16||Unlock Company Profile|
|Vale||15||Unlock Company Profile|
|Metso Outotec||15||Unlock Company Profile|
|AEM Canada Group||12||Unlock Company Profile|
|Dowa||11||Unlock Company Profile|
|Voestalpine||10||Unlock Company Profile|
|Heraeus||10||Unlock Company Profile|
|RecycLiCo Battery Materials||7||Unlock Company Profile|
|Ausmelt||6||Unlock Company Profile|
|Lixivia||6||Unlock Company Profile|
|Hyundai Motor||5||Unlock Company Profile|
|Kobe Steel||5||Unlock Company Profile|
|Kia||5||Unlock Company Profile|
|Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile||5||Unlock Company Profile|
|State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council||4||Unlock Company Profile|
|Outotec||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|Rio Tinto||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|Aluminum Corporation of China||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|Jeffery Steel||2||Unlock Company Profile|
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Leaders in battery metal recycling innovation include ENEOS, Proterial and RecycLiCo Battery Materials (RecycLiCo). RecycLiCo, a battery materials company specializing in lithium-ion battery recycling and materials production, has developed advanced technologies for recovering battery-grade materials from lithium-ion batteries, addressing the global demand for environmentally friendly energy storage solutions. In October 2023, the company obtained two additional patents in Japan and Australia for the battery recycling process, bringing the company’s patent portfolio to ten granted patents, with a further six applications pending. Furthermore, granted patents cover separation of graphite and carbon from ground battery concentrates, the treatment of fluoride from the electrolyte solution, and the separation of aluminum from the cathode active material.
ENEOS has pioneered the recovery of high-purity metal salts from automotive lithium-ion batteries. In 2020, the company began operating bench-scale equipment installed in its Hitachi Works Technology Development Center for technological and system development for closed-loop recycling, in which resources are recovered from used automotive lithium-ion batteries and reused as raw materials for new automotive lithium-ion batteries. Furthermore, in 2021, the company started trials for nickel sulphate recovery and introduced a new process at its Tsuruga Plant based on this bench-scale equipment.
ENEOS collaborated with Redivivus, a lithium-ion battery recycling startup, in January 2023 to accelerate the development of Redi-Shred®, a passivation technology to safely process end-of-life batteries at any state of charge or health.
In May 2023, Proterial announced the development of a technology to manufacture cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries without having to convert nickel to nickel hydroxide. The technology also enables lowering of CO2 emissions during the production by more than 20% compared to solid phase reaction method.In terms of application diversity, Hyundai Motor leads the pack, while Kia and Hyundai Steel stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, China Energy Investment held the top positions, followed by Barrick Gold and Vale.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Sustainability in Mining.