Benchmark: world needs more than 300 new mines by 2035 to keep up with Li-ion battery demand; need for recycling
Demand for lithium-ion batteries is set to grow six-fold by 2032, according to Benchmark. Accordingly, the world needs more than 300 new mines to be built by 2035 if raw material supply is to keep up with this demand, according to a new analysis by Benchmark.
However, recycling could help reduce the number of mines needed. Without recycling, for example, we will need 62 cobalt mining projects by 2035, according to Benchmark; with recycling, this falls to 38.
Scrap from gigafactories will be the primary source of recyclable battery material for the next decade, according to Benchmark’s Recycling Report. End-of-life batteries are not expected to become a major source of material until the 2030s as electric vehicles sold now won’t be scrapped for another ten years or so, according to Benchmark.
Benchmark forecasts this scrap will account for 78% of the pool of recyclable materials in 2025. This year Benchmark expects more than 30 GWh of process scrap to be available for recycling, growing ten-fold across the next decade.
In the long term, the loss rates will steady out but there will always be losses, said Sarah Colbourn, an analyst at Benchmark. Although the rate of increase of the process scrap pool will slow down beyond 2030 there will still be a significant volume of scrap, she said.
The available waste pool will see a shift around the mid-2030s when end-of-life batteries will overtake process scrap as the primary source of recyclable material, according to Benchmark.
Collecting process scrap is far simpler than collecting end-of-life batteries, however. Rather than being concentrated in predictable gigafactories, these batteries will be geographically dispersed and require an extensive collection infrastructure.
China currently dominates the recycling scene. The top eight recyclers operating this year are all based in the country. As China hosts the majority of battery cell producers, they also generate the largest quantity of process scrap.