SK Ecoplant, the construction unit of South Korean industrial conglomerate SK Group, has agreed to form a joint venture with a US company to build a recycling pretreatment plant for electric vehicle (EV) batteries in Kentucky.

SK Ecoplant’s waste processing subsidiary, TES, and Massachusetts-based Ascend Elements would jointly build the US$66m waste processing plant in Hopkinsville with capacity to produce 12,000 tons of black mass per year when completed in early 2025.

Black mass is the shredded material generated from recycled batteries, consisting mainly of lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel. The material is refined further to generate reusable battery minerals. As the electric vehicle industry matures, recycled materials will become an increasingly important source of battery materials.

SK Ecoplant would hold a 64% stake in the JV with TES owning 11% and Ascend Elements the remaining 25%.

Ascend Elements is currently building its first US cathode material precursor plant with capacity for 750,000 EVs per year.

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