LONDON – In a significant development, Atlas Materials, a pioneering company specializing in cutting-edge nickel processing technology for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, has successfully raised $27 million in funding. The startup announced this achievement as it prepares to construct a pilot plant in North America.
Headquartered in the United States, Atlas has devised an innovative method to transform low-grade nickel ore, typically employed in stainless steel production, into a nickel form suitable for EV batteries. This breakthrough technology not only minimizes emissions but also eliminates waste, making it an eco-friendly and economically viable solution.
The company’s ambitious plan involves launching production at a pilot plant, slated for one of three potential locations in either Canada or the United States, by 2027. The plant is expected to yield an impressive 1,800 metric tons of annual nickel output, as revealed by CEO Jeremy Ley in an interview with Reuters.
What makes Atlas stand out is its capacity to process saprolite nickel ores, constituting approximately a third of the world’s nickel resources, into mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) for battery applications. Jeremy Ley emphasized, “This would be the first production of MHP in North America.”
Traditionally, saprolite ores are converted into ferronickel, primarily for use in stainless steel manufacturing. However, Atlas is set to disrupt this norm by sourcing its ore from New Caledonia and exploring potential collaborations with major mining companies.
The groundbreaking processing technology relies on hydrochloric acid and caustic soda to leach the ore. Remarkably, it operates at standard pressure and temperature conditions, resulting in zero waste. Moreover, the ore processing generates valuable byproducts, namely magnesium hydroxide and a material suitable as a substitute for portland cement in construction applications, both of which can be profitably marketed.
“We have no waste, and we can take all the products to market and use up all of the ore instead of creating large tailing ponds,” Ley emphasized, underlining the eco-friendliness of the technology, which boasts nearly zero carbon dioxide emissions.
While some processing plants in Indonesia have adopted high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) to convert a similar type of nickel ore into MHP for batteries, this approach generates toxic waste. The Indonesian government has pledged environmental reforms in light of this issue.
Investors have shown strong support for Atlas Materials, with the Series A Funding round featuring notable names like the Grantham Environmental Trust and Voyager Ventures. This round has brought the company’s total funding to an impressive $33 million, according to Ley. The funds raised will be allocated towards engineering and design work for the pilot plant, with additional financing needed for its actual construction.
Atlas Materials’ pioneering technology represents a significant step forward in the sustainable production of nickel for EV batteries, aligning with the global shift towards cleaner and greener transportation solutions.