Metals industry opposes proposed EU toxic label on key battery component lithium

Europe is at risk of falling even further behind China in the race to secure metals used to propel electric vehicles if the EU proposal to label “toxic” lithium is approved, industry bodies have warned.

In a letter sent to EU policymakers this week, seven business groups, including Eurometaux and the International Lithium Union (Ilia), expressed “deep concern” about the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) proposal to classify lithium, a key battery metal. As a “category 1A reproductive toxin”.

The call for labeling lithium carbonate, hydroxide and chloride as substances that could impair fertility and unborn children was presented to the European Commission earlier this year. It is under review, with a final decision expected from policymakers in late 2022 or early 2023.

In an open letter, industry groups argue that the scientific evidence is “too weak” to “justify” such a serious classification, which they believe will have a major impact on Europe’s industrial targets for electric vehicles. Batteries And critical raw materials.

“An unjustified classification of lithium salts would be a red flag that brings great uncertainty to companies looking to make long-term investments in European refining and recycling capacity.”

Lithium, extracted from brine in South America or from rocks in Australia, is one of the key materials needed to make the batteries that power electric vehicles. This key role has led to its addition to the EU’s Critical Raw Materials List by 2020.

However, there are currently no commercial refineries in Europe, making the battery manufacturers in the region rely almost entirely on China for supply, which produces more than 90% of the world’s refined lithium.

“The proposed reclassification of lithium to a toxic chemical could have significant implications for battery manufacturers looking to develop European-based lithium supply chains,” said a lithium dealer.

“This will directly affect rules and regulations regarding the handling, processing and development of future assets. All of this will add an additional cost to an industry that is not invested in the EU,” the trader said.

James Lay, one of Rystad Energy’s consultants, said the potential classification of lithium as a toxic substance is “in polar opposition” to the EU target of 100% zero-emission car sales by 2035. ” Local, “he said.

Roland Chaveza, Ilya’s secretary general, said toxicity classifications require a “strong and impartial” assessment of all available scientific data.

“This does not appear to have been the case in this case,” he said, citing opposition from the Finnish Chemicals Agency. “The science used to support the proposed reclassification is very subtle and chooses to ignore the abundance of contractual evidence.”

Albamarl, one of the world’s largest lithium addicts, said the misclassification could increase the stigma of lithium, “with negative effects on industrial projects in Europe”, including its plans to invest in a conversion plant.

“Lithium is likely to continue to be processed outside Europe and then come in. This lack of investment will require lithium recycling to take place outside the EU,” it said.

Lithium prices were strong in 2022, when carbonate and hydroxide estimates rose sharply.

Even without the hurdle created by the reclassification, Leigh said demand for lithium from European battery makers is on track to significantly exceed supply.

“The supply of lithium hydroxide, which is required to produce nickel-rich lithium-ion batteries that allow EVs to have a longer driving range, is estimated at 68% less than demand in Europe in 2025, and that deficit is expected to reach 218 percent by 2030,” he said.

The UK is set to propose its own classification for lithium later this year.

Metals industry opposes proposed EU toxic label on key battery component lithium Source link Metals industry opposes proposed EU toxic label on key battery component lithium

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