A Luxembourg-based firm that’s harnessing microwave technology to recover metals is looking to build a $440 million refinery in Texas to help quench demand for a key ingredient in electric-vehicle batteries.
Wave Nickel seeks to tap US government incentives including those from President Joe Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act to build a refinery that’ll produce nickel sulfate for EV batteries, Chief Executive Officer Gustavo Emina said in an interview.
“It has become a matter of national security for the US to guarantee the supply of strategic minerals, which has caught our attention,” Emina said. “There is a lot of money and very few projects.”
Wave Nickel, which also owns a nickel mine in Brazil, expects the US facility to take about four years to develop. The refinery will get its raw material from a yet-to-be-built Brazilian plant that uses microwaves to produce mixed hydroxide precipitate, a feedstock used to make nickel sulfate. The firm expects to produce 40,000 tons of precipitate by 2028, enough to make 20,000 tons of nickel, the CEO said.
The closely held startup is controlled by New Wave, a holding company that counts the family of the late Norwegian entrepreneur Erling Lorentzen — Brazil’s pulp pioneer — as majority shareholder.
The parent company, which Emina oversees as well, also owns Wave Aluminium, which uses microwaves to recover minerals from alumina tailings. The group is building plants to process bauxite residue in Norsk Hydro ASA’s Alunorte facility in Brazil.
Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is developing the final engineering studies for the Texas refinery, Emina said. The US plant will be an important step for New Wave’s ambitions to pursue an initial public offering on the Nasdaq by 2026.
The nickel market has been under pressure over the past year amid a glut of Indonesian production, something which has helped push nickel sulfate prices to a rare discount to nickel metal. However, Emina said he anticipates that a slowdown of project development outside of China and Indonesia will lead to a need for more nickel ore by 2028.
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