Aqua Metals and Yulho form strategic partnership, companies plan to deploy sustainable lithium battery recycling in South Korea

Aqua Metals, Inc., a pioneer in sustainable lithium-ion battery recycling, announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with Yulho Co., Ltd. (“Yulho”), an innovative storage solution and battery materials company based in South Korea. By aligning global partnerships and shared expertise, Aqua Metals and Yulho aim to drive innovation in lithium battery recycling and set a new standard for a low-carbon, circular supply of the critical minerals that power an electrified future.

Initiating the partnership, Yulho will make a strategic equity investment of $5 million in Aqua Metals, underscoring Yulho’s confidence in Aqua Metals’ transformative technology and demonstrated results at its pilot-scale facility. The parties have entered into a securities purchase agreement and expect to close on the investment on or about August 4, 2023. In addition to the capital investment, the companies have entered into an agreement to negotiate and execute a definitive license agreement whereby Aqua Metals will grant Yulho a license to deploy Aqua Metals’ patented AquaRefining™ technology in South Korea in its own facilities.

“We believe our recently announced public equity raise, alongside our strategic financing and proposed partnership with Yulho, signifies a transformative moment for Aqua Metals,” said Steve Cotton, President & CEO, Aqua Metals. “We expect this to be a pivotal step in our long-term vision for global growth, accelerating our commercial operations here in the United States, and bringing our AquaRefining technology to South Korea, a region of technological leadership and one of the largest markets for critical minerals, to address the increasing demand for sustainable battery materials in Asia.”

This strategic partnership is intended to capitalize on the respective strengths of Aqua Metals and Yulho. With 25 years of experience in South Korea’s advanced technology sector, Yulho possesses the expertise and established relationships with the country’s largest lithium battery and electric vehicle companies to rapidly scale operations to meet the growing demand for recycled materials in Asia. Through its subsidiary, Yulho Materials, the company collects and processes battery manufacturing scrap and spent lithium-ion batteries into hard-to-acquire ‘black mass’ — the mixture of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and other valuable battery materials that Aqua Metals recovers.

Yulho Materials previously completed the pilot demonstration of its own proprietary black mass process and has provided exceptional quality material samples to Aqua Metals. Yulho is currently building a high-purity black mass facility with an annual capacity of 8,000 metric tonnes, the largest in South Korea, and expects to commence production later this year, with plans to expand to 24,000 tonnes of capacity in the future.

Aqua Metals currently operates the first sustainable lithium battery recycling facility in the US, establishing itself as a leader in low-carbon, circular supply of critical battery materials. Using its cutting-edge AquaRefining technology, Aqua Metals recovers the metals and minerals contained in lithium battery black mass without the use of polluting furnaces or intensive chemical processes that produce excessive carbon emissions and chemical waste.

Yulho’s CEO Jeong-Nam Lee stated, “Since April, both companies have been engaged in confidential negotiations after signing a non-disclosure agreement. Given that each company excels in pre-processing and post-processing fields, we anticipate significant synergy resulting from this partnership.”

He further added, “We aim to expand our business model beyond a simple technology swap and joint venture establishment. Together, both companies will pursue collaborative ventures, elevating our business model.”

For the equity investment, Yulho has agreed to the purchase of approximately 4.5 million shares of common stock at a purchase price of $1.10 per share in a registered direct offering, totaling $5 million gross proceeds. The initial licensing agreement with Aqua Metals is expected to allow for up to 100,000 tonnes of materials processed per year in South Korea, and both companies anticipate the relationship expanding beyond Asia to the European Union as well. This deal was arranged by Network 1 Financial Securities and Nexpedia Holdings Co., Ltd.

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