By Francesca Landini and Alvise Armellini
ROME (Reuters) - Glencore has decided to build a pilot project for an electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling plant outside of Italy, but still has its eye on the island of Sardinia for a larger facility, the Swiss mining group said on Thursday.
Responding to a Reuters request for comment on a newspaper report, Glencore said that the decision to relocate the testing and demonstration plant away from Portovesme in Sardinia would allow for faster commissioning of the project.
Glencore said in May it was going to develop a recycling hub with Canada's Li-Cycle in Portovesme, where Glencore has other industrial sites, to produce lithium and other materials from the shredded material extracted from used car batteries, known as "black mass".
But the two companies decided that the testing and demonstration phase of this project would no longer be done in Sardinia after the island's regional government refused to fast-track an environmental impact assessment for it.
"This development does not immediately impact the feasibility assessment of the larger hub project," Glencore said in an emailed statement.
"The definite feasibility study is ongoing and remains focused on Portovesme. This initiative is important for our recycling strategy and aligns with Italy's objectives for sustainable industry development," the group added.
The Swiss group did not specify where it would build the pilot plant.
Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said on Thursday that several countries were being considered as alternative locations, both in Europe and North America.
In a letter sent by Glencore's Sardinian unit to Italy's environment and industry ministries, the company said it hoped new European Union regulation on critical raw materials for decarbonisation could accelerate the permitting process for its hub project.
"We consider it essential to continue our dialogue with the ministries you represent, also to discuss how the soon to be enacted (EU) Critical Raw Materials Act can guarantee certainty and speed in the authorisation procedure for the Hub Project," the group said in the letter seen by Reuters.
The company also confirmed in the letter its intent to carry on with the restructuring of its existing industrial activities in Portovesme.
The CGIL, CISL and UIL labour unions criticised the lack of firm deadlines for the environmental assessment procedure for the pilot plant, and asked the Italian authorities to end their "attitude of distrust" towards the hub project in Sardinia.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Alvise Armellini; Editing by Jan Harvey and Keith Weir)