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Lithium Battery Blaze Threatens French Town

A fire at a lithium battery recycling plant in France has raised fears of toxic pollution and health risks

by Victor Adetimilehin

A massive fire at a battery recycling plant in southern France has sparked fears of toxic pollution and health risks for nearby residents.

The fire broke out on Saturday in a warehouse owned by SNAM, a French company that specializes in recycling lithium batteries from electric vehicles, phones, and other devices. Lithium batteries are highly flammable and can emit dangerous substances when they burn.

According to local authorities, the fire consumed about 900 tonnes of batteries, sending a thick black smoke into the sky above the site in Viviez, north of Toulouse. The smoke was visible from several kilometers away and prompted warnings for people to stay indoors and avoid exposure.

The fire was brought under control on Sunday, but it was still burning slowly and was expected to last for several hours. Firefighters said there were no indications of the release of dangerous air pollution, but they were monitoring the situation closely.

Lithium batteries are essential for the transition to clean energy, as they power electric vehicles and store renewable energy. However, they also pose environmental and safety challenges, as they contain combustible materials and toxic metals that can cause fires and contaminate the soil and water.

SNAM is one of the leading companies in Europe that recycles lithium batteries, recovering valuable metals such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium. The company claims to have a high environmental and social performance and says it recycles more than 90% of the batteries it receives.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but SNAM said it was cooperating with the authorities to investigate the incident and assess the damage. The company also said it was working to ensure the safety of its employees and the local community.

The fire is not the first of its kind in France. In January 2023, a large fire broke out in a warehouse storing car components and thousands of lithium batteries in Normandy, but it was contained without causing any casualties or major pollution.

The increasing use of lithium batteries in various sectors has raised concerns about the potential risks of fires and explosions, especially in transportation and storage. Experts have called for more research and regulation to ensure the safe and sustainable use of these batteries.

“In the coming years, the growing demand for lithium batteries will necessitate increased investment and innovation in battery recycling, as underscored by the fire in Viviez. Recycling can help reduce the environmental impact of battery production and disposal, as well as the dependence on imported raw materials.

Despite the challenges, lithium batteries remain a key component of the global effort to combat climate change and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. With proper management and recycling, they can offer a green and efficient solution for energy storage and mobility.

Source: Mining.com

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