September 16, 2022: US Strategic Metals (USSM) said on September 15 it would break ground later this month on a pilot materials plant in Missouri as part of a bid to end US reliance on imports of critical supplies for electric vehicle batteries.
USSM said the precursor cathode active material (PCAM) plant, combined with its existing hydrometallurgical processing (hydromet) facility at the site, would “close the loop on the production of critical minerals wholly within the US”.
When production starts at the site, US electric vehicle manufacturers and battery companies “may no longer need to go outside the country — to China or other countries — to get the critical material needed to power their vehicles”, USSM said.
Jamil Jaffer, former senior adviser to the Senate’s foreign relations committee and USSM advisory board member, said: “This new plant and its ability to provide cobalt, nickel, lithium, and other critical minerals… has the potential to help break China’s stranglehold on the processing of these critical materials once and for all.”
The hydromet pilot plant has been in operation for more than two years, using what USSM said was proprietary American technology “to process a wide range of raw materials cleanly — including material from used EV batteries, existing mine waste, and raw ore — to obtain new battery-grade metals and other strategic metals”.
A commercial-scale hydromet plant is being built and should start up by the end of this year. USSM estimates that it could supply half of the total demand in the US for cobalt and nickel sulfate by 2025, and “potentially the full US demand for cobalt sulfate” soon after.
BESJ reported last March that the US Geological Survey had warned the country was still heavily dependent on imports for key battery materials including cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel.