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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023

or

TRANSITION REPORT UNDER SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the transition period from                     to                

Commission file number: 001-37515

 

Aqua Metals, Inc.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

Delaware

47-1169572

(State or Other Jurisdiction of
Incorporation or Organization)

(I.R.S. Employer Identification
Number)

5370 Kietzke Lane, Suite 201.

Reno, Nevada 89511

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(775) 446-4418

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code) 

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act

 

Title of each class of stock:

Trading symbol

Name of each exchange on which registered:

Common Stock

AQMS

The Nasdaq Capital Market

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

None

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐  No

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act. Yes ☐  No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the past 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒  No ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒  No ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act):

 

Large accelerated filer

 

Accelerated filer

 ☐

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Non-accelerated filer

 

Smaller reporting company

 

      
   

 

Emerging Growth Company

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes  No ☒

 

If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements. 

 

Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b).  ☐

 

State the aggregate market value of voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates computed by reference to the price at which the common equity was last sold, or the average bid and asked price of such common equity, as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter: $92,731,305.

 

The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock outstanding as of March 22, 2024 was 111,953,875.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement for the registrant’s 2024 Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be filed pursuant to Regulation 14A within 120 days of the registrant’s year ended December 31, 2023 are incorporated herein by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.



 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

     

 

 

Page

 

PART I

 

Item 1.

Business

2

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

11

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

17

Item 1C. Cybersecurity 17

Item 2.

Properties

18

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

18

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

18

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

19

Item 6.

Reserved

19

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

20

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

25

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

26

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

53

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

53

Item 9B.

Other Information

54

Item 9C. Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections 54

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

55

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

55

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

55

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions and Director Independence

55

Item 14.

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

55

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

56

Item 16. Form 10-K Summary 58

 

 

 

Signatures

 

59

 

 

 

 

CAUTIONARY NOTICE

 

This annual report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Those forward-looking statements include our expectations, beliefs, intentions and strategies regarding the future. Such forward-looking statements relate to, among other things,

 

 

our ability to have our Aqua Refining solutions gain market acceptance;
  our ability to acquire addition working capital on reasonable terms, as needed and on a timely basis.
 

our intentions, expectations and beliefs regarding anticipated growth, market penetration and trends in our business;

 

the timing and success of our plan of commercialization;

 

our ability to demonstrate the operation of our AquaRefining process on a commercial scale;

 

our ability to successfully apply our AquaRefining technology to the recycling of lithium-ion batteries;

 

the effects of market conditions on our stock price and operating results;

 

our ability to maintain our competitive technological advantages against competitors in our industry;

 

our ability to maintain, protect and enhance our intellectual property;

 

the effects of increased competition in our market and our ability to compete effectively;

 

costs associated with defending intellectual property infringement and other claims;

 

our expectations concerning our relationships with suppliers, partners and other third parties; and

 

our ability to comply with evolving legal standards and regulations, particularly concerning requirements for being a public company and environmental regulations;

 

These and other factors that may affect our financial results are discussed more fully in “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included in this report. Market data used throughout this report is based on published third party reports or the good faith estimates of management, which estimates are presumably based upon their review of internal surveys, independent industry publications and other publicly available information. Although we believe that such sources are reliable, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information, and we have not independently verified such information. We caution readers not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. We do not undertake, and specifically disclaim any obligation, to update or revise such statements to reflect new circumstances or unanticipated events as they occur, and we urge readers to review and consider disclosures we make in this and other reports that discuss factors germane to our business. See in particular our reports on Forms 10-K, 10-Q, and 8-K subsequently filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

1

 

PART I

 

 

Item 1.

Business

 

Background

 

We were formed as a Delaware corporation on June 20, 2014, for the purpose of engaging in the business of recycling metals through a novel, proprietary and patent-pending process that we developed and named “AquaRefining.” In 2015, Aqua Metals developed a breakthrough metal recycling technology that utilizes a clean, closed-loop process that can produce high-purity metal. We believe this innovative approach can deliver raw materials back into the manufacturing supply chain while reducing emissions and toxic byproducts and creating a safer work environment. In particular, the modular AquaRefining systems have already demonstrated the ability to recover critical minerals from both lead acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries and can reduce the cost and environmental impact of battery recycling.

 

Aqua Metals has a history of battery recycling, having first owned and operated a pilot lead acid battery recycling facility between 2017 and 2019. This breakthrough technology was initially applied in the lead acid battery (LAB) recycling industry, building the first integrated recycling system for breaking LAB and recovering pure metal. In 2019, we operated our demonstration AquaRefinery at commercial quantity production levels and produced over 35,000 ‘AquaRefined’ ingots operating twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for sustained periods of time.

 

In February 2021, we announced our entry into the lithium-ion battery (LiB) recycling market through a key provisional patent we filed that applies the same innovative AquaRefining approach. In August 2021, we announced we had established our Innovation Center in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC) focused on applying our proven technology to LiB recycling research, development and prototyping. Our strategic decision to apply our proven clean, closed-loop hydrometallurgical and electrochemical recycling experience to lithium-ion battery recycling is designed to meet the growing demand for critical metals driven by the global transition to electric vehicles; growth in Internet data centers; and alternative energy applications including solar, wind, and grid-scale storage. 

 

During the first half of 2022, we announced our ability to recover copper, lithium hydroxide, nickel, cobalt and manganese dioxide from lithium-ion battery ‘black mass’ at bench scale at the Company’s Innovation Center. During 2022, we built our fully-integrated pilot system, located within the Company’s Innovation Center, which is designed to enable Aqua Metals to be the first company in North America to recycle battery minerals from black mass, sell them in the U.S. and position the Company as the first sustainable LiB recycler in North America to align with the U.S. government’s goal of retaining strategic battery minerals within the domestic supply chain.

 

During 2022, we conducted environmental comparisons based on Argonne National Lab’s modeling of lithium battery supply chains – called EverBatt. The initial results indicate that AquaRefining is a cleaner and more sustainable approach to LiB recycling, producing far less CO2 waste streams than smelting or chemical-driven hydrometallurgical processes currently on the market. In December 2022, we completed equipment installation and began to operate our first-of-a-kind LiB recycling facility, utilizing renewable electricity as the reagent to recycle instead of intensive chemical processes, fossil fuels, or high-temperature furnaces. In January of 2023, Aqua Metals recovered its first metals from recycling lithium batteries using the patent-pending Li AquaRefining process.

 

In February 2023, we acquired a five-acre recycling campus at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (TRIC). When fully developed, the facility we envision is designed to process up to 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material each year using our proprietary Li AquaRefining technology. Subject to our receipt of the required additional capital, we expect to complete development of phase one, including all equipment installation, by mid-2024 and to commence the commissioning and operation at the new campus in the second half of 2024. The Company is planning for a phased development of the campus, beginning with the already commenced redevelopment of an existing building on-site into the first commercial-scale Li AquaRefinery, targeting 3,000 tons per annum (tpa) capacity in phase one. In January through March of 2024, we have made significant progress on the construction of the planned first phase of the commercial Li AquaRefinery.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, the terms “Aqua Metals,” “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to Aqua Metals, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiaries.

 

All references in this report to “ton” or “tonne” refer to a metric ton, which is equal to approximately 2,204.6 pounds.

 

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Overview

 

Aqua Metals is seeking to reinvent metal recycling with its patented and patent-pending AquaRefining™ technologies. Aqua Metals is focused on developing cleaner and safer metals recycling through innovation. We believe Aqua Metals can expand the development of breakthrough technologies for sustainable metal recycling and deliver high-value critical minerals back into the manufacturing supply chain while reducing emissions and toxic byproducts and creating much safer work environments.

 

Aqua Metals has invested in breakthrough metals recycling methodologies that we believe are environmentally responsible, economically competitive, and will help retain critical strategic metals within the U.S. while enabling domestically produced, sustainably produced, recycled metals to enter the supply chain and lower sole reliance on unsafe and toxic mining operations. Since 2015, Aqua Metals has developed breakthrough metal recycling technologies that utilize a clean, closed-loop process that can produce ultra-high purity metals. AquaRefining is designed to deliver raw materials back into the manufacturing supply chain, and replaces the need for polluting furnaces and hazardous chemicals with electricity-powered electroplating to recover valuable metals and materials from spent batteries with higher purity, lower emissions, and minimal waste.

 

We believe Aqua Metals' regenerative electro-hydrometallurgical recycling method potentially offers a substantial improvement over traditional pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical recycling techniques, which produce much higher emissions, lower recovery rates, and significant landfill waste. We believe the AquaRefining process has the potential to vastly reduce the environmental impact of recycling lithium batteries as compared to other processes while providing a higher yield of high-purity metals essential for the burgeoning US battery manufacturing industry. 

 

We are in the process of demonstrating that Li AquaRefining can create the highest quality and highest yields of recovered minerals from lithium-ion batteries, with lower waste streams and lower costs than alternatives. With the proven ability to recover valuable metals from lithium-ion batteries at our pilot facility in the TRIC, our goal is to demonstrate our ability to process commercial quantities of high-purity lithium hydroxide and/or carbonate, nickel, cobalt, manganese dioxide, and copper in pure forms that can be sold to the general metals and superalloy markets, and can be made into battery precursor compound materials with proven processes that are already used in the battery industry.

 

The Company is also exploring additional novel applications of AquaRefining across metals recycling industries at our Innovation Center, including recycling emerging battery chemistries and opportunities to develop additional products for sale to customer specifications.

 

 

Our Markets

 

Aqua Metals’ AquaRefining process produces high purity metals and alloys that can be returned into the battery manufacturing supply chain or sold into metals markets for use across various advanced manufacturing industries. This combination of approaches and the broad applicability of the end products we aim to produce enables Aqua Metals to create low-emissions inputs for the battery supply chain or to help decarbonize other sectors that utilize these critical metals and superalloys – creating a more resilient and adaptable business model for the Company as a whole.

 

Metals Markets

 

Most of the minerals and metals that can be recovered in the recycling of batteries of various chemistries are also globally traded commodities. Lead, copper, cobalt, nickel, and other metals can be recovered and sold in pure metal form into these markets at the prevailing price or sold directly to a customer at a price set relative to the current market price.

 

For example, battery metals are globally traded metal commodities. Metals such as lead for LABs and nickel, cobalt, copper and lithium for LIBs are the essential components for the world’s rechargeable batteries. These metals are globally traded primarily on the London Metals Exchange (LME and the Shanghai Metals Exchange (SHME) in China also trades these elements. In their pure forms, the other minerals that Aqua Metals intends to recover from spent batteries can be sold into these global markets. Unlike lead markets where recycled mineral content achieves up to 90% of new LAB batteries in a mature industry, lithium and related metals recycling currently achieves only 1-3% recycled mineral content of new LiB batteries, relying almost entirely on newly mined ore and refining to meet global demand.

 

As noted above, although metals are traded as a commodity on the various global exchanges, the major sales are directly between producers/traders and users (whom are typically battery manufacturers). The LME daily price is used as the benchmark in forming the basis of physical trades, forward contracts, and hedge strategies for both primary and secondary metals, in metal form. Based on market and product knowledge with buyers of metals in the U.S. and global metals markets, different grades (termed alloys) of metal are traded at a premium to the base LME price. Metal alloys, which are typically designed specifically for the customer, are also sold at a premium above the base LME, whereas byproducts (generally lower purity, compounds, or scrap) are traded at a discount to the LME as they are based on the underlying metals content and its form. 

 

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Lead Acid Batteries

 

According to Grand View Research, annual lead acid battery sales are expected to grow to $84 billion by 2025, driving demand for lead. Similar prospects for healthy growth in the lead industry continue to be published and support continued growth in demand for lead for at least the next 15 years. We believe that grid storage and other energy storage applications linked to renewable energy (solar and wind) will also generate increased demand for LABs, where low cost, safety and reliability will make them attractive options.

 

The increase in LAB manufacturing in general and particularly in China, India, and Southeast Asia, has increased demand for lead, putting pressure on global recycling networks to meet this demand. At present, we believe that much of the LAB recycling performed outside of the U.S., Canada, the EU, Japan, and Australia is carried out in outdated facilities with poor environmental standards and insufficient enforcement. China, India, Pakistan, and South America appear to be moving toward tougher regulation and enforcement. Even the cleanest incumbent lead recycling operations produce more pollution and worker safety challenges than our lead AquaRefining alternative. We believe that further aging of incumbent facilities coupled with ever tightening pollution and worker safety regulations will drive a demand in all markets for less polluting LAB recycling processes.

 

The Lithium Battery Market

 

Global demand for Li-ion batteries is expected to soar over the next decade, with the number of GWh required increasing from about 700 GWh in 2022 to around 4.7 TWh by 2030 (Figure 1 below). Batteries for mobility applications, such as electric vehicles (EVs), will account for the vast bulk of demand in 2030—about 4,300 GWh; an unsurprising trend seeing that mobility is growing rapidly. This is largely driven by three major drivers:

 

 

A regulatory shift toward sustainability, which includes new net-zero targets and guidelines, including Europe’s “Fit for 55” program, the US Inflation Reduction Act, the 2035 ban of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the EU and in the State of California in the U.S., and India’s Faster Adoption and Manufacture of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Scheme.

 

Greater customer adoption rates and increased consumer demand for greener technologies (up to 90 percent of total passenger car sales will involve EVs in selected countries by 2030).

 

Announcements by 13 of the top 15 OEMs to discontinue production of ICE vehicles and achieve new emission-reduction targets. 

 

Figure 1: Growth of the Li-ion Battery Market Battery

 

figure1.jpg

 

Battery energy storage systems (BESS) are expected to have a CAGR of 30 percent, and the GWh required to power these applications in 2030 will be comparable to the GWh needed for all applications today. China could account for 45 percent of total Li-ion demand in 2025 and 40 percent in 2030—most battery-chain segments are already mature in that country. Nevertheless, growth is expected to be highest globally in the EU and the United States, driven by recent regulatory changes, as well as a general trend toward localization of supply chains. In total, at least 120 to 150 new battery factories will need to be built between now and 2030 globally to have sufficient capacity to meet predicted demand. In line with the surging demand for Li-ion batteries across industries, it is projected that revenues along the entire value chain will increase 5-fold, from about $85 billion in 2022 to over $400 billion in 2030 (Figure 2). Active materials and cell manufacturing may have the largest revenue pools. Mining is not the only option for sourcing battery materials since recycling is also an option. Although the recycling segment is expected to be relatively small in 2030, it is projected to grow more than three-fold in the following decade, when more batteries reach their end-of-life and greater quantities of manufacturing scrap material become available for recycling.

 

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Figure 2: Li-ion Revenue Opportunities through 2030

 

figure2.jpg

 

Lithium Batteries

 

EV batteries are powered by a battery pack made up of individual cells. Each cell has 4 components: the cathode, anode, separator, and electrolyte. Lithium-ion batteries use different raw materials for each of the components. The most common material used for the anode is graphite. The most widely used metals for the cathode is metal oxides that are combinations of lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and aluminum. The electrolyte is generally made using acidic salts and solvents such as sulfuric acid and there are also solid-state silicon-based alternatives under development and early deployments have begun. The separator is usually created using a porous, polyolefin material like polyethylene or polypropylene.

 

Lithium-ion battery recycling is the method of taking EV batteries and splitting it into its components, ultimately into the original raw materials (lithium, nickel, cobalt, etc.) that can be reused in new batteries. While making lithium-ion batteries for EVs is important to address climate change, the batteries themselves are harmful to the environment if left in landfills or burned. Currently, only a small fraction of lithium-ion batteries are recycled and that must get close to 100% both to avoid environmental issues and to recapture the critical minerals in those spent batteries to feed the massive demand growth curve.  Battery recycling helps address this problem, but current pyro-based battery recycling technology (smelting) also creates harmful emissions, potentially creating new climate problems faster than they are being solved. There are alternative hydro-based technologies available and rely on older methodologies that are known to create significant waste streams, potentially with more waste than product recovered, which have their own negative environmental and economic impacts.

 

Black Mass

 

        Lithium-ion batteries are comprised of valuable metals such as lithium, copper, manganese, cobalt, and nickel. Once a battery is retired, the batteries can be collected, fully discharged, then shredded and base metals are separated to prepare them for recycling. This shiny, metallic mixture is what is called ‘black mass’—and it contains all the valuable metals that make up battery anodes and cathodes, the most expensive parts of a battery and the companies that collect and process batteries into black mass are referred to as ‘shredders’. The typical black color is due to the high concentrations of graphite contained in the anodes of batteries, which has a very dark black color. Black mass makes up about 40-50% of the total weight of an EV battery. Materials like the binder, copper, electrolytes, plastics, aluminum, and steel have been physically separated out by shredders before being recycled.

 

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There are two main processes to producing black mass:

 

 

1.

Pyrometallurgy: some black mass producers will use high temperatures to burn off unwanted materials like plastics and remaining electrolyte. This can create hazardous emissions and waste that must be captured or mitigated, and result in less recovered material.

 

 

2.

Hydrometallurgy: many producers use solution-based techniques—using water, chemicals and electricity to crush and separate the materials from a battery. This eliminates the need for polluting furnaces and energy intensive processing, creating a lower-carbon black mass.

 

       Aqua Metals specifically partners with producers that use non-pyro processes in order to create black mass to meet their own objectives for creating low-carbon recycled materials. The exact composition of black mass can vary considerably based on a number of factors. To start, there are many different types of lithium-ion batteries and manufacturing scrap forms, which will revert back to a mix of different elements and different ratios, including lithium, nickel, iron, titanium, copper, cobalt, manganese, and others (their use of lithium is the commonality).

 

       Each manufacturer also has their own specific ‘recipe’ for their cathodes, cell type/form factors, as well as module type and pack assembly for different applications (cell phones, laptops, electric vehicles, etc.). Currently, the most popular types of lithium-ion batteries in the world incorporate significant amounts of nickel, cobalt, lithium, and manganese—so black mass produced today will typically have varying concentrations of each.

 

AquaRefining Process

 

We developed AquaRefining to be a cleaner and modular alternative to smelting and chemical-based recycling methods. Our process has two key elements, both of which are integral to our issued patents and pending-patent applications. The first is our use of proprietary, non-toxic solvents that dissolves metal compounds. The second is a proprietary electrochemical process and our modular Aqualyzer cells that selectively target each critical element and converts the dissolved metal compounds into high purity metals and/or salts.

 

The AquaRefining process begins with the processing of crushed used batteries either in the form of paste (for LAB) or, black mass (for LIB). The active materials are first processed to remove sulfur and then dissolved in our solvent. Metals are plated from the solvent using our patented and patent-pending process allowing the solvent to be reused.

 

We have demonstrated at bench scale and subsequently in our pilot facility that our lithium battery AquaRefining process can generate cobalt, lithium hydroxide or carbonate, copper, nickel, and manganese dioxide from lithium-ion battery black mass. A significant benefit of our AquaRefining process is that it can produce higher yields of higher purity, and thus higher value product than that derived from primary smelters with product from secondary sources.

 

Another significant benefit of our process is that we designed our AquaRefining equipment to be manufactured on a purpose-built production line in standard sized Aqualyzers. This is not possible with the smelting process, as smelters need to be constructed on site. This gives us the ability to provide AquaRefining systems with varying capacities to meet the specific needs of potential customers and suppliers. We have also developed an integrated software and portal called PureMetrics that keeps track of production and key operating metrics.

 

Recycling is subject to a variety of domestic and international regulations related to hazardous materials, emissions, employee safety and other matters. While our operations will be subject to these regulations, we believe that one of our potential advantages will be our ability to conduct battery recycling operations with less regulatory cost and burden than smelting operators due to the nature of our process. One of our key initiatives is and will continue to be, to educate regulators and the public as to the environmental benefits of AquaRefining. We believe that we have the potential to develop a business model that offers the opportunity to conduct, in an environmentally friendly manner, an important recycling activity that historically has been conducted in an often highly polluting manner.

 

 

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Project Site

 

Aqua Metals is in the process of building a new lithium-ion battery recycling facility to be located within Storey County, Nevada (the “Project”). The Project is located at 2955 & 2999 Waltham Way, McCarran, NV 89434 (the “Commercial Facility”). Aqua Metals operates a demonstration scale facility at 60 Denmark Drive, McCarran, NV 89434 (the “Innovation Center”) which utilizes the equivalent equipment and technology as is expected to be constructed and operated in the Project.

 

 

Figure 3: Aqua Metals Site Rendering

figure3.jpg

 

Highlights include:

 

 

Five-acre campus designed to ultimately process more than 20 million pounds of lithium-ion battery material annually (10,000tpa)

 

Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center campus at the heart of Nevada’s lithium battery supply chain

 

Foreign Trade Zone designation

 

Rendering of existing building and additional land available for future expansion

 

Black mass materials secured to reach commercial scale in 2024, and operate into 2025.

 

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Our Business Model

 

Aqua Metals is engaged in the business of applying its commercialized clean, water-based recycling technology principles to develop the clean and cost-efficient recycling solutions for both lead and lithium-ion (“Li”) batteries. Our recycling process is a patented hydrometallurgical and electrochemical technology that is a novel, proprietary and patented process we developed and named AquaRefining. AquaRefining is a low-emissions, closed-loop recycling technology that replaces polluting furnaces and hazardous chemicals with electricity-powered electroplating to recover valuable metals and materials from spent batteries with higher purity, lower emissions, and with minimal waste. The “Aqualyzers” cleanly generate ultra-pure metal one atom at a time, closing the sustainability loop for the rapidly growing energy storage economy.

 

We are applying our sustainable recycling technology principles with the goal of developing the cleanest and most cost-efficient recycling solution for lithium-ion batteries. We believe our process has the potential to produce higher quality products at a lower operating cost without the damaging effects of furnaces and greenhouse emissions. We expect to recover lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate, copper, nickel, cobalt, and other compounds in a salable form to either be sold directly to lithium battery CAM manufactures or the commodities market. Aqua Metals estimates the total addressable market for lithium-ion battery recycling will be approximately $9 billion by 2025 and grow to exceed lead battery recycling by the end of the decade. Unlike the mature lead recycling market, the deployed lithium-ion battery recycling infrastructure to serve market growth does not exist today.

 

Our business strategy is based on the pursuit of building and operating Li AquaRefining recycling capacity to meet the growing demand for critical metals in lithium-ion batteries driven by innovations in automobile batteries, growth in internet data centers, and alternative energy applications, including solar, wind, and grid-scale storage. 

 

We are in the process of demonstrating that Li AquaRefining, which is fundamentally non-polluting, can create the highest quality and highest yields of recovered minerals from lithium-ion batteries with lower waste streams and lower costs than existing alternatives. Throughout 2023 and now into 2024, we have demonstrated at our pilot facility our ability to recover key valuable minerals in lithium-ion batteries, such as lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate, copper, nickel, cobalt, and other compounds. Our goal is to process commercial quantities of nickel, cobalt, and copper in a pure metal form that can be sold to the general metals and superalloy markets and can be made into battery precursor compound materials with known processes already used in the mining industry. We have operated the first Li AquaRefining pilot plant throughout 2023. The location for the pilot demonstration facility is currently the Innovation Center with expansion to happen at our new 5-acre recycling campus to commercial quantities. Once fully completed, our commercial facility is designed to process ~10,000 tonnes / year or more of battery materials, with our first phase, which would be enough material to build ~100,000 average EVs or ~400,000 average home energy storage systems. We are proceeding with a phased development approach, and commenced phase one of our campus in 2023, with a target capacity of 3,000 tonnes per year.

 

Our focus for the lithium market includes operating our first-of-a-kind lithium battery recycling facility, utilizing electricity to recycle instead of intensive chemical processes, fossil fuels, or high-temperature furnaces. We are also exploring partnership and/or joint venture agreements, particularly as our Li AquaRefining matures. We believe that Aqua Metals is in a position to become one of the few critical minerals recovery players for which our environmental and economic value proposition should generate both great commercial wins and potentially government grants to accelerate our expansion and progress. 

 

The market for lithium-ion batteries is global in scale but local in nature and execution, with large differences in local regulation, custom and practice, and access to transportation and electricity costs. In some regions, it is highly regulated, and in others it is not. Consequently, we are evolving our business model to commercialize our technology optimally across multiple locations.

 

 

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Competition

 

Our development of recycling technology for lithium-ion batteries is a unique approach to extracting the high-value metals compared to the array of other potential solutions under development. Currently, smelting is the only commercially proven process for recycling lithium-ion batteries. The smelting process utilizes multiple high emissions steps with low yields to produce materials that typically require further refining before being utilized to manufacture new batteries. Over the next decade and beyond, when the volume of used batteries becomes significant, smelting will likely not be a viable solution due to the negative environmental impact and likelihood of regulatory restrictions on emissions. The other technologies currently under development utilize a predominately hydrometallurgical approach that consumes significant amounts of chemicals to extract the metals resulting in high cost and excessive waste streams. Our approach is a hybrid of hydrometallurgical and electrometallurgical processes like the process we have commercialized for lead, we call it “Li AquaRefining.” We believe, and our lab scale and then bench scale and now pilot scale R&D supports, that Li AquaRefining requires less chemicals, produces less waste streams, and creates higher purity products at a lower cost as compared to both smelting and standard hydrometallurgy.

 

The lithium-ion battery recycling market is significantly different from that of the lead recycling market in that it is a nascent industry. With no predominant technology to displace, our goal is to enable new and existing recyclers across the globe with Li AquaRefining as a best-in-class solution for meeting the supply chain demands of the lithium-ion battery industry as well as meeting the environmental needs of the planet and the corporations seeking to achieve net zero emissions.

 

The competitive advantages of the Aqua Metals project include:

 

 

Replaces furnaces and heavy chemical use with 100% electricity-powered and closed-loop recycling, creating fundamentally non polluting, cost-efficient solution that generates minimal waste

 

AquaRefining recovers all valuable materials, including Lithium Hydroxide, Lithium Carbonate, and Manganese Dioxide, which are not recovered by competing methods

 

Recovers the high-value metals lost in smelting (like lithium and manganese), and produces high purity products

 

Only Li-ion recycling method with pathway to net-zero operations

 

Strong IP protection: 73 global patents; 43 patents pending

 

Only electro-hydrometallurgy recycler in North America

 

Safer work environment, less hazardous materials, eliminates constant trainloads of chemicals

 

Massive and growing global addressable market

 

Greenfield opportunity for partnerships and strategic alliances

 

Intellectual Property Rights

 

We regard the protection of our technologies and intellectual property rights as an important element of our business operations and crucial to our success. We endeavor to generate and protect our intellectual property assets through a series of patents, trademarks, internal and external policy and procedures and contractual provisions.

 

Patent Portfolio

 

Currently, we have secured 3 US patents, 32 international patents, and 3 allowances (international). In addition to the US patents, we have international patents/allowances in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, African Intellectual Property Organization, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the Eurasian Patent Organization, European Union, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, South Africa, Ukraine, and Vietnam. We also have 32 US and foreign patent applications pending with patent applications pending in 16 additional non-US jurisdictions, across six distinct patent applications relating to certain elements of the technology underlying our AquaRefining process and related apparatus and chemical formulations. The claims of the granted patents substantially address the same subject matter and are drawn to various aspects of processing lead or lithium materials using an aqua refining process. Differences in the claim number and scope are due to local rules and practice as well as the target metal.

 

We intend to continue to prepare and file domestic and foreign patent applications covering expanding aspects and applications of our technology, as circumstances warrant.

 

There can be no assurance that any patents will issue from any of our current or any future applications. Also, any patents that may issue may not survive a legal challenge to their scope, validity, or enforceability, or provide significant protection for us. Competitors may work around our patents, so they are not infringing. Our patent portfolio and our existing policy and procedures safeguarding our trade secrets nonetheless may face challenges so that our competitors can copy our AquaRefining process.

 

Trademark Portfolio

 

We have filed for trademark registration in the US and foreign countries for the following trademarks:

 

 

AQUA METALS (11 foreign countries)

 

AQUAREFINING (10 foreign countries)

 

AQMS (US only)

  AQUAREFINERY (9 foreign countries)

 

Trade Secrets and Contract Protection

 

We have developed our internal policy and procedures in safeguarding our trade secrets and proprietary information. Our procedures generally require our employees, consultants, and advisors to enter into confidentiality agreements. These agreements provide that all confidential information developed or made known to the individual during the course of the individual’s relationship with us is to be kept confidential and not disclosed to third parties except under specific circumstances. In the case of our employees, the agreements provide that all of the technology that is conceived by the individual during the course of employment is our exclusive property. The development of our technology and many of our processes are dependent upon the knowledge, experience, and skills of key scientific and technical personnel.

 

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Government Regulation

 

Our operations and the operations of our licensees in the United States will be subject to the federal, state, and local environmental, health and safety laws applicable to the reclamation of LABs and lithium based batteries. While the reclamation process itself is generally not subject to federal permitting requirements, depending on how any particular operation is structured, our facilities and the facilities of our licensees may have to obtain environmental permits or approvals from federal, state or local regulators to operate, including permits or regulatory approvals related to air emissions, water discharges, waste management, and the storage of batteries on-site should that become necessary. We may face opposition from local residents or public interest groups to the installation and operation of our or our licensee's facilities. Failure to secure (or significant delays in securing) the necessary approvals could prevent us from pursuing some of our planned operations and adversely affect our business, financial results, and growth prospects.

 

In addition to permitting requirements, our operations and the operations of our licensees are subject to environmental health, safety and transportation laws and regulations that govern the management of and exposure to hazardous materials such as the lead, acids, and other metals involved in reclamation. These include hazard communication and other occupational safety requirements for employees, which may mandate industrial hygiene monitoring of employees for potential exposure to lead. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject our business to significant penalties (civil or criminal) and other sanctions that could adversely affect our business. Changes to these regulatory requirements in the future could also increase our costs, require changes in or cessation of certain activities, and adversely affect the business.

 

The nature of our operations and the operations of our licensees involves risks, including the potential for exposure to hazardous materials such as lead, that could result in personal injury and property damage claims from third parties, including employees and neighbors, which claims could result in significant costs or other environmental liability. Our operations and the operations of our licensees also pose a risk of releases of hazardous substances, such as lead, acids, and other metals related to lithium batteries into the environment, which can result in liabilities for the removal or remediation of such hazardous substances from the properties at which they have been released, liabilities which can be imposed regardless of fault, and our business could be held liable for the entire cost of cleanup even if we were only partially responsible. Like any manufacturer, we and our licensees are also subject to the possibility that we may receive notices of potential liability in connection with materials that were sent to third-party recycling, treatment, and/or disposal facilities under the Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (“CERCLA”), and comparable state statutes, which impose liability for investigation and remediation of contamination without regard to fault or the legality of the conduct that contributed to the contamination, and for damages to natural resources. Liability under CERCLA is retroactive, and, under certain circumstances, liability for the entire cost of a cleanup can be imposed on any responsible party.

 

As our business expands outside of the United States, our licensed operations will be subject to the environmental, health and safety laws of the countries where we do business, including permitting and compliance requirements that address the similar risks as do the laws in the United States, as well as international legal requirements such as those applicable to the transportation of hazardous materials. Depending on the country or region, these laws could be as stringent as those in the US, or they could be less stringent or not as strictly enforced. In some countries in which we are interested in expanding our business, such as South America, Taiwan and China, the relevant environmental regulatory and enforcement frameworks are in flux and subject to change. Therefore, while compliance with these requirements will cause our business to incur costs, and failure to comply with these requirements could adversely affect our business, it is difficult to evaluate such potential costs or adverse impacts until such time as we decide to initiate operations in particular countries outside the United States.

 

Employees

 

As of the date of this report, we employ 53 people on a full-time basis. None of our employees are represented by a labor union.

 

Financial and Segment Information

 

We operate our business as a single segment, as defined by generally accepted accounting principles. Our financial information is included in the consolidated financial statements and the related notes.

 

Available Information

 

Our website is located at www.aquametals.com and our investor relations website is located at https://ir.aquametals.com/. Copies of our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, are available, free of charge, on our investor relations website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file such material electronically with or furnish it to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC. The SEC also maintains a website that contains our SEC filings. The address of the site is www.sec.gov. The contents of our website are not intended to be incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K or in any other report or document we file with the SEC, and any references to our websites are intended to be inactive textual references only.

 

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Item 1A.

Risk Factors

 

Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. Before purchasing our common stock, you should read and consider carefully the following risk factors as well as all other information contained in this report, including our consolidated financial statements and the related notes. Each of these risk factors, either alone or taken together, could adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition, as well as adversely affect the value of an investment in our common stock. There may be additional risks that we do not presently know of or that we currently believe are immaterial, which could also impair our business and financial position. If any of the events described below were to occur, our financial condition, our ability to access capital resources, our results of operations and/or our future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected and the market price of our common stock could decline. As a result, you could lose some or all of any investment you may make in our common stock.

 

Risks Relating to Our Business and Operations

 

We have a limited operating history and limited revenue producing operations and are currently undertaking a reset of our business strategy.  Therefore, it is difficult for potential investors to evaluate our business. We formed our corporation in June 2014. From inception through December 31, 2023, we generated a total of $11.7 million of revenue, all of which was derived primarily from the sale of lead compounds and plastics and, to a lesser extent, the sale of lead bullion and AquaRefined lead, and all but approximately $310,000 of which was derived prior to January 1,2020 at our former LAB recycling facility. In the last two years, the business has been focused on completing the research and development of the application of our AquaRefining technology to the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and operating a lithium-ion recycling pilot plant. Based upon our success to date in recovering high value metals from lithium-ion batteries using our AquaRefining technology, we have commenced the development of a five-acre recycling campus designed to process up to 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material annually. While we intend to continue to pursue our licensing business model, the development of our lithium-ion battery recycling facility represents a significant change in our business strategy and course of operations.  As of the date of this report, we estimate that we will begin to realize revenues from lithium-ion battery recycling in 2024, however we are unable to estimate when we expect to commence any meaningful commercial or revenue producing operations from either our licensing model or our lithium-ion battery recycling facility. Our limited operating history makes it difficult for potential investors to evaluate our technology or prospective operations and we are, for all practical purposes, an early-stage company subject to all the risks inherent in the initial organization, financing, expenditures, complications, and delays in a new business, including, without limitation:

 

 

our ability to successfully apply, and realize the expected benefits of applying, our AquaRefining technology to the plating of high value metals found in lithium-ion batteries, including cobalt, nickel, and copper;

 

the timing and success of our plan of commercialization and the fact that we have not entered into a commercial license for our AquaRefining technology and only have recently commenced the build out of our lithium-ion recycling facility;

 

our ability to successfully develop our proposed lithium-ion recycling facility;
 

our ability to demonstrate that our AquaRefining technology can recycle either LABs or lithium-ion batteries on a commercial scale; and
  our ability to license our AquaRefining process and sell our AquaRefining equipment to recyclers of LABs and lithium-ion batteries.

 

Investors should evaluate an investment in us in light of the uncertainties encountered by developing companies in a competitive environment. There can be no assurance that our efforts will be successful or that we will ultimately be able to attain profitability.

 

We will need additional financing to execute our business plan and fund operations, which additional financing may not be available on reasonable terms or at all. As of December 31, 2023, we had total cash of $16.5 million and working capital of $13.7 million. As of the date of this report, we believe that we will require additional capital in order to fund our current level of ongoing costs and our proposed business plan over the next 12 months as we move forward with our business strategy. We intend to acquire the necessary capital though debt financing or through the sale of equity. Funding that includes the sale of our equity may be dilutive. If such funding is not available on satisfactory terms, we may be unable to further pursue our business plan and we may be unable to continue operations, in which case you may lose your entire investment.

 

The report of our independent registered public accounting firm for the year ended December 31, 2023 states that there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued.

 

We recently commenced the development of a lithium-ion recycling facility, however we are in the early stages of developing the facility and there can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully develop the facility or, if we do, realize the expected benefits of the facility. In January 2023, we announced our plans to conduct the phased development of a five-acre recycling campus in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, or TRIC, in McCarran, Nevada. The facility is designed, when fully developed, to process up to 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material each year using our proprietary AquaRefining technology. On February 1, 2023, we closed on the acquisition financing and purchased the five-acre site, plus the existing 21,000 square foot building, and as noted elsewhere, in third quarter of 2023 we raised a net of $22.9 million from the sale of our common stock. We believe the net proceeds will allow us to commence the Phase One build-out of the facility. However, we will need additional financing to complete the build-out of Phase One, which we intend to pursue through conventional non-dilutive loans, potential government backed debt offerings, government grants or through the sale of our common stock via our current at-the-market offering. Subject to our receipt of development financing on a timely basis, we expect to complete development of Phase One, including all equipment installation, by the end of first half of 2024 and to commence operations at the new campus in the second half of 2024. However, there can be no assurance we will be able to do so.

 

Our business is dependent upon our successful implementation of novel technologies and processes and there can be no assurance that we will be able to implement such technologies and processes in a manner that supports the successful commercial roll-out of our business model. While much of the technology and processes involved in battery recycling operations are widely used and proven, our AquaRefining process is largely novel and, to date, has been demonstrated on a modest scale of operations. While we have shown that our proprietary technology can produce AquaRefined metals from batteries on a small scale, we have not processed recycled batteries on a commercial scale. We recently commenced the development of a five-acre recycling campus designed to process lithium-ion batteries, however there can be no assurance that we will be able to complete the development of the recycling facility or, if we are able to do so, that we will be able to successfully process lithium-ion batteries on a commercial scale. In this regard, as we developed our LAB recycling facility at TRIC during 2018 and 2019, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter unforeseen complications as we pursue our revised business model.

 

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Our business model is new and has not been proven by us or anyone elseWe are engaged in the business of producing recycled lead from LABs and high value metals from lithium-ion batteries through a novel, and proven on a modest scale, technology. While the production of recycled batteries is an established business, to date virtually all recycled metals have been produced by way of traditional smelting processes. To our knowledge, no one has successfully produced recycled batteries in commercial quantities other than by way of smelting. In addition, neither we nor anyone else has ever successfully built a production line that commercially recycles batteries without smelting. Further, there can be no assurance that either we will be able to produce AquaRefined metals from batteries in commercial quantities at a cost of production that will provide us with an adequate profit margin. The uniqueness of our AquaRefining process presents potential risks associated with the development of a business model that is untried and unproven.

 

We have initiated the research and development of the application of our AquaRefining technology to the recycling and recovery of lithium-ion batteries, however there can be no assurance that our efforts will be successful. In September 2021, we announced the establishment of our Innovation Center, in McCarran, Nevada, focused on applying our AquaRefining technology to lithium-ion battery recycling research and development and prototype system activities. In 2021, we filed a provisional patent for recovering high-value metals from recycled lithium-ion batteries to complement the patents for AquaRefining. At the end of 2022 and throughout 2023, we successfully recovered all valuable materials from spent lithium batteries at production scale using our AquaRefining technology: lithium hydroxide, copper, nickel, cobalt, and manganese dioxide. We also operated our pilot plant throughout 2023. We are continuing our efforts to improve our Li AquaRefining process; however, there can be no assurance that our efforts will be successful or that we will be able to conduct the recycling and recovery of the high value metals from lithium-ion batteries on a commercial scale.

 

Our business strategy includes licensing arrangements and entering into joint ventures and strategic alliances, however as of the date of this report we have no such agreements in place and there can be no assurance we will be able to do so. Failure to successfully integrate such licensing arrangements, joint ventures, or strategic alliances into our operations could adversely affect our business. We propose, as one of our business strategies, to commercially exploit our AquaRefining process by licensing our technology to third parties and entering into joint ventures and strategic relationships with parties involved in the manufacture and recycling of batteries. We are also currently seeking to negotiate agreements with others. However, there can be no assurance we will be able to conclude a licensing agreement with any partners, or that we will be able to do so on terms that benefit us. In 2023, we exited our proposed collaboration with LINICO by way of the sale of our LINICO common stock to LINICO’s parent, Comstock Inc., and we ceased the development of recycling operations at the Taiwan facilities of ACME Metals. Our ability to enter into licensing, joint ventures and strategic relationships with third parties will depend on our ability to demonstrate the technological and commercial advantages of our AquaRefining process, of which there can be no assurance. Also, even if we are able to enter into licensing, joint venture or strategic alliance agreements, there can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain the expected benefits of any such arrangements. In addition, licensing programs, joint ventures and strategic alliances may involve significant other risks and uncertainties, insufficient revenue generation to offset liabilities assumed and expenses associated with the transaction, potential additional challenges in protecting our intellectual property, and unidentified issues not discovered in our due diligence process, such as product quality, technology issues and legal contingencies. In addition, we may be unable to effectively integrate any such programs and ventures into our operations. Our operating results could be adversely affected by any problems arising during or from any licenses, joint ventures or strategic alliances.

 

Even if our licensees are successful in recycling batteries using our processes, there can be no assurance that the AquaRefined recycled metals will meet the certification and purity requirements of the potential customers. A key component of our business plan is the production of recycled metals through our AquaRefining process. Our customers will require that our AquaRefined metals meet certain minimum purity standards and, in all likelihood, require independent assays to confirm the metal’s purity. As of the date of this report, we have produced limited quantities of AquaRefined metals. We have not produced AquaRefined metals in significant commercial quantities and there can be no assurance that we will be able to do so or, that such metals will meet the required purity standards of our customers. Further, while we have recently commenced the application of our AquaRefining process towards the recovery of high value metals found in lithium-ion batteries, such as cobalt, nickel, lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, copper, and manganese dioxide, we have only recently begun the development of recycling of lithium-ion batteries, and there can be no assurance that our efforts will be successful or that we will be able to conduct the recycling and recovery of the high value metals from lithium-ion batteries on a commercial scale.

 

While we have been successful in producing AquaRefined metals in small volumes, there can be no assurance that either we or our licensees will be able to replicate the process, along with all of the expected economic advantages, on a large commercial scale either for us or our prospective licensees. Our initial commercial operations involved the production of lead compounds and plastics from recycled LABs, and the sale of lead bullion and AquaRefined lead. While we believe that our development, testing and limited production to date has validated the concept of our AquaRefining process, the limited nature of our operations to date are not sufficient to confirm the economic returns on our production of recycled metals. Further, we have only recently commenced commercial operations in the area of recycling of lithium-ion batteries. There can be no assurance that either us or our licensees will be able to produce AquaRefined metals from batteries in commercial quantities at a cost of production that will provide us and our proposed licensees with an adequate profit margin.

 

Our intellectual property rights may not be adequate to protect our business. As of the date of this report, we have 3 issued US patents, 32 international patents, and 3 international allowances related to our AquaRefining process.

 

We also have further patent applications pending in the United States and numerous corresponding patent applications pending in 16 additional jurisdictions relating to certain elements of the technology underlying our AquaRefining process and related apparatus and chemical formulations. However, no assurances can be given that any patent issued, or any patents issued on our current and any future patent applications, will be sufficiently broad to adequately protect our technology. In addition, we cannot assure you that any patents issued now or in the future will not be challenged, invalidated, or circumvented.

 

Even patents issued to us may not stop a competitor from illegally using our patented processes and materials. In such event, we would incur substantial costs and expenses, including lost time of management in addressing and litigating, if necessary, such matters. Additionally, we rely upon a combination of trade secret laws and nondisclosure agreements with third parties and employees having access to confidential information or receiving unpatented proprietary know-how, trade secrets and technology to protect our proprietary rights and technology. These laws and agreements provide only limited protection. We can give no assurance that these measures will adequately protect us from misappropriation of proprietary information.

 

Our processes may infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, which could lead to costly disputes or disruptions. The applied science industry is characterized by frequent allegations of intellectual property infringement. Though we do not expect to be subject to any of these allegations, any allegation of infringement could be time consuming and expensive to defend or resolve, result in substantial diversion of management resources, cause suspension of operations or force us to enter into royalty, license, or other agreements rather than dispute the merits of such allegation. If patent holders or other holders of intellectual property initiate legal proceedings, we may be forced into protracted and costly litigation. We may not be successful in defending such litigation and may not be able to procure any required royalty or license agreements on acceptable terms or at all.

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Our internal computer systems, or those of our collaborators or other contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches, which could result in a material disruption of our product development programs.  Our internal computer systems and those of our current and any future customers, vendors, licensees, collaborators and other contractors or consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, war and telecommunication and electrical failures. While we have not experienced any such material system failure, accident or security breach to date, if such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a disruption of our research and development and our business operations, whether due to a loss of our trade secrets or other proprietary information or other similar disruptions. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability, our competitive position could be harmed and the further development and commercialization of our recycling technologies could be delayed.

 

We could be subject to risks caused by misappropriation, misuse, leakage, falsification or intentional or accidental release or loss of information maintained in the information systems and networks of our company and our customers, vendors, licensees, collaborators and other contractors or consultants, including personal information of our employees and others, and company and third-party confidential data. In addition, outside parties may attempt to penetrate our systems or those of our customers, vendors, licensees, collaborators and other contractors or consultants or fraudulently induce our personnel or the personnel of third parties to disclose sensitive information in order to gain access to our data and/or systems. We may experience threats to our data and systems, including malicious codes and viruses, phishing and other cyberattack. The number and complexity of these threats continue to increase over time. If a material breach of, or accidental or intentional loss of data from, our information technology systems or those of our customers, vendors, licensees, collaborators and other contractors or consultants occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures could be harmed and our reputation and credibility could be damaged. We could be required to expend significant amounts of money and other resources to repair or replace information systems or networks. In addition, we could be subject to regulatory actions and/or claims made by individuals and groups in private litigation involving privacy issues related to data collection and use practices and other data privacy laws and regulations, including claims for misuse or inappropriate disclosure of data, as well as unfair or deceptive practices.

 

Although we develop and maintain systems and controls designed to prevent these events from occurring, and we have a process to identify and mitigate threats, the development and maintenance of these systems, controls and processes is costly and requires ongoing monitoring and updating as technologies change and efforts to overcome security measures become increasingly sophisticated. Moreover, despite our efforts, the possibility of these events occurring cannot be eliminated entirely. As we outsource more of our information systems to vendors, engage in more electronic transactions with third parties, and rely more on cloud-based information systems, the related security risks will increase and we will need to expend additional resources to protect our technology and information systems. In addition, there can be no assurance that our internal information technology systems or those of our customers, vendors, licensees, collaborators and other contractors or consultants will be sufficient to protect us against breakdowns, service disruption, data deterioration or loss in the event of a system malfunction, or prevent data from being stolen or corrupted in the event of a cyberattack, security breach, industrial espionage attacks or insider threat attacks which could result in financial, legal, business or reputational harm.

 

Risks Relating to Geopolitical, Macroeconomic and Industry Factors

 

Unfavorable geopolitical and macroeconomic developments could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. Our business could be adversely affected by conditions in the U.S. and global economies, the United States and global financial markets and adverse geopolitical and macroeconomic developments, including rising inflation rates, the continuing adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukrainian/Russian and Israeli/Palestinian conflicts and related sanctions, bank failures, and economic uncertainties related to these conditions. While the COVID-19 pandemic has abated, many of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to cause disruption and increased costs for businesses. We believe there continue to be, among other things, supply chain disruptions that are causing delays in the delivery of equipment and inventory and staffing shortages.

 

Additionally, inflation rates, particularly in the United States, have increased to levels not seen in years, and increased inflation may result in increases in our operating costs (including our labor costs), reduced liquidity and limits on our ability to access credit or otherwise raise capital on acceptable terms, if at all. In response to rising inflation, the U.S. Federal Reserve has raised, and may again raise, interest rates, which, coupled with reduced government spending and volatility in financial markets, may have the effect of further increasing economic uncertainty and heightening these risks.

 

Further, financial markets around the world experienced volatility following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022 and the eruption of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in October 2023, including as a result of economic sanctions and export controls against Russia and countermeasures taken by Russia. The full economic and social impact of these sanctions and countermeasures, in addition to the ongoing military conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, which could conceivably expand, remains uncertain; however, both the conflicts and related sanctions have resulted and could continue to result in disruptions to trade, commerce, pricing stability, credit availability, and/or supply chain continuity, in both Europe and globally, and has introduced significant uncertainty into global markets. While we do not currently operate in Russia, Ukraine or the Middle East, as the adverse effects of these conflicts continue to develop our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

 

Any of the foregoing could harm our business. Any resulting financial impact cannot be reasonably estimated at this time but may materially affect our business and financial condition. The extent to which the foregoing impacts our results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted.

 

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Our business may be negatively affected by labor issues and higher labor costs. Our ability to maintain our workforce depends on our ability to attract and retain new and existing employees. As of the date of this report, none of our employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements and we consider our labor relations to be acceptable. However, we could experience workforce dissatisfaction which could trigger bargaining issues, employment discrimination liability issues as well as wage and benefit consequences, especially during critical operation periods. We could also experience a work stoppage or other disputes which could disrupt our operations and could harm our operating results. In addition, legislation or changes in regulations could result in labor shortages and higher labor costs. There can be no assurance that we may not experience labor issues that negatively impact our operations or results of operations.

 

Global economic conditions could negatively affect our prospects for growth and operating resultsOur prospects for growth and operating results will be directly affected by the general global economic conditions of the industries in which our suppliers, partners and customer groups operate. We believe that the market price of battery metal is relatively volatile and reacts to general global economic conditions.  Our business will be highly dependent on the economic and market conditions in each of the geographic areas in which we operate. These conditions affect our business by reducing the demand for recyclable batteries and decreasing the price of battery metals in times of economic downturn and increasing the price of used batteries in times of increasing demand of recyclable batteries. There can be no assurance that global economic conditions will not negatively impact our liquidity, growth prospects and results of operations.

 

We are subject to the risks of conducting business outside the United States. A part of our strategy involves our pursuit of growth opportunities in certain international market locations. We intend to pursue licensing or joint venture arrangements with local partners who will be primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations. Any expansion outside of the U.S. will require significant management attention and financial resources to successfully develop and operate any such facilities, including the sales, supply and support channels, and we cannot assure you that we will be successful or that our expenditures in this effort will not exceed the amount of any resulting revenues. Our international operations expose us to risks and challenges that we would otherwise not face if we conducted our business only in the United States, such as:

 

 

increased cost of enforcing our intellectual property rights;

 

diminished ability to protect our intellectual property rights;

 

heightened price sensitivities from customers in emerging markets;

 

our ability to establish or contract for local manufacturing, support and service functions;

 

localization of our LABs and components, including translation into foreign languages and the associated expenses;

 

compliance with multiple, conflicting and changing governmental laws and regulations;

 

compliance with the Federal Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-corruption laws;

 

foreign currency fluctuations;

 

laws favoring local competitors;

 

weaker legal protections of contract terms, enforcement on collection of receivables and intellectual property rights and mechanisms for enforcing those rights;

 

market disruptions created by public health crises in regions outside the United States;

 

difficulties in staffing and managing foreign operations, including challenges presented by relationships with workers’ councils and labor unions;

 

issues related to differences in cultures and practices; and

 

changing regional economic, political and regulatory conditions.

 

Risks Relating to Government Law and Environmental Regulations

 

U.S. government regulation and environmental, health and safety concerns may adversely affect our business. Our operations and the operations of our licensees in the United States will be subject to the federal, state and local environmental, health and safety laws applicable to the reclamation of batteries including the Occupational Safety and Health Act ("OSHA") of 1970 and comparable state statutes. Our facilities and the facilities of our licensees will have to obtain environmental permits or approvals to expand, including those associated with air emissions, water discharges, and waste management and storage. We and our licensees may face opposition from local residents or public interest groups to the installation and operation of our respective facilities. In addition to permitting requirements, our operations and the operations of  our licensees are subject to environmental health, safety and transportation laws and regulations that govern the management of and exposure to hazardous materials such as the acids involved in battery reclamation. These include hazard communication and other occupational safety requirements for employees, which may mandate industrial hygiene monitoring of employees for potential exposure.

 

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We and our licensees are also subject to inspection from time to time by various federal, state and local environmental, health and safety regulatory agencies and, as a result of these inspections, we and our licensees may be cited for certain items of non-compliance. Failure to comply with the requirements of federal, state and local environmental, health and safety laws could subject our business and the businesses of our licensees to significant penalties (civil or criminal) and other sanctions that could adversely affect our business. In addition, in the event we are unable to operate and expand our AquaRefining process and operations as safe and environmentally responsible, we and our licensees may face opposition from local governments, residents or public interest groups to the installation and operation of our facilities.

 

The development of new AquaRefining technology by us or our partners or licensees, and the dissemination of our AquaRefining process will depend on our ability to acquire necessary permits and approvals, of which there can be no assurance. As noted above, our AquaRefining processes will have to obtain environmental permits or approvals to operate, including those associated with air emissions, water discharges, and waste management and storage. In addition, we expect that any use of AquaRefining operations at our partner's facilities will require additional permitting and approvals. Failure to secure (or significant delays in securing) the necessary permits and approvals could prevent us and our partners and licensees from pursuing additional AquaRefining expansion, and otherwise adversely affect our business, financial results and growth prospects. Further, the loss of any necessary permit or approval could result in the closure of an AquaRefining facility and the loss of our investment associated with such facility.

 

Our business involves the handling of hazardous materials and we may become subject to significant fines and other liabilities in the event we mishandle those materials. The nature of our operations involves risks, including the potential for exposure to hazardous materials such as lead, lithium hydroxide, and lithium carbonate that could result in personal injury and property damage claims from third parties, including employees and neighbors, which claims could result in significant costs or other environmental liability. Our operations also pose a risk of releases of hazardous substances, such as lead, lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate or acids, into the environment, which can result in liabilities for the removal or remediation of such hazardous substances from the properties at which they have been released, liabilities which can be imposed regardless of fault, and our business could be held liable for the entire cost of cleanup even if we were only partially responsible. We are also subject to the possibility that we may receive notices of potential liability in connection with materials that were sent to third-party recycling, treatment, and/or disposal facilities under the Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, or CERCLA, and comparable state statutes, which impose liability for investigation and remediation of contamination without regard to fault or the legality of the conduct that contributed to the contamination, and for damages to natural resources. Liability under CERCLA is retroactive, and, under certain circumstances, liability for the entire cost of a cleanup can be imposed on any responsible party. Any such liability could result in judgments or settlements that restrict our operations in a manner that materially adversely effects our operations and could result in fines, penalties or awards that could materially impair our financial condition and even threaten our continued operation as a going concern.

 

We will be subject to foreign government regulation and environmental, health and safety concerns that may adversely affect our business. As our business expands outside of the United States, our operations will be subject to the environmental, health and safety laws of the countries where we do business, including permitting and compliance requirements that address the similar risks as do the laws in the United States, as well as international legal requirements such as those applicable to the transportation of hazardous materials. Depending on the country or region, these laws could be as stringent as those in the U.S., or they could be less stringent or not as strictly enforced. In some countries in which we are interested in expanding our business, such as Mexico and China, the relevant environmental regulatory and enforcement frameworks are in flux and subject to change. Compliance with these requirements will cause our business to incur costs, and failure to comply with these requirements could adversely affect our business.

 

In the event we are unable to present and operate our AquaRefining process and operations as safe and environmentally responsible, we may face opposition from local governments, residents or public interest groups to the installation and operation of our facilities.

 

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Risks Related to Owning Our Common Stock

 

The market price of our shares may be subject to fluctuation and volatility. You could lose all or part of your investment. The market price of our common stock is subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control. Since January 1, 2023, the reported high and low sales prices of our common stock have ranged from $1.69 to $0.47 through March 22, 2024. The market price of our shares on the NASDAQ Capital Market may fluctuate as a result of a number of factors, some of which are beyond our control, including, but not limited to:

 

 

actual or anticipated variations in our and our competitors’ results of operations and financial condition;
 

changes in earnings estimates or recommendations by securities analysts, if our shares are covered by analysts;
 

development of technological innovations or new competitive products by others;
 

regulatory developments and the decisions of regulatory authorities as to the approval or rejection of new or modified products;
 

our sale or proposed sale, or the sale by our significant stockholders, of our shares or other securities in the future;
 

changes in key personnel;
 

success or failure of our research and development projects or those of our competitors;
 

the trading volume of our shares; and
 

general economic and market conditions and other factors, including factors unrelated to our operating performance.

 

These factors and any corresponding price fluctuations may materially and adversely affect the market price of our shares and result in substantial losses being incurred by our investors. In the past, following periods of market volatility, public company stockholders have often instituted securities class action litigation. If we were involved in securities litigation, it could impose a substantial cost upon us and divert the resources and attention of our management from our business. 

 

We have received a notice of delisting or failure to satisfy a continued listing rule from the Nasdaq. On November 24, 2023, we received a letter (from the Nasdaq Stock Market, LLC, or Nasdaq, notifying us we had fallen below compliance with respect to the continued listing standard set forth in Rule 5550(a)(2) of the Nasdaq Listing Rules because the closing bid price of our common stock over the previous 30 consecutive trading-day period had fallen below $1.00 per share. 

 

Pursuant to the Nasdaq’s letter and Rule 5810(c)(3)(A) of the Nasdaq Listing Rules, we have 180 days from the date of the letter, or until May 22, 2024, to regain compliance with the minimum bid price requirement in Rule 5550(a)(2) by achieving a closing bid price for our common stock of at least $1.00 per share over a minimum of 10 consecutive business days. If we do not regain compliance with Rule 5550(a)(2) during the initial 180-day period, we may be eligible for additional time to regain compliance, subject to our compliance with the Nasdaq’s continued listing requirement for market value of publicly-held shares and all other initial listing standards for The Nasdaq Capital Market, with the exception of the bid price requirement, and our provision of certain undertakings to the Nasdaq. However, there can be no assurance that we will be afforded additional time to regain compliance with the minimum bid price requirement following the initial 180-day period. If we are unable to regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5550(a)(2) in a timely manner, the Nasdaq will commence suspension and delisting procedures.

 

These factors and any corresponding price fluctuations may materially and adversely affect the market price of our shares and result in substantial losses being incurred by our investors. In the past, following periods of market volatility, public company stockholders have often instituted securities class action litigation. If we were involved in securities litigation, it could impose a substantial cost upon us and divert the resources and attention of our management from our business.

 

If securities or industry analysts do not continue to publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline. The trading market for our common stock depends in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If industry analysts cease coverage of us, the trading price for our common stock would be negatively affected. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our common stock or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our common stock price would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of us or fail to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our common stock could decrease, which might cause our common stock price and trading volume to decline. In addition, independent industry analysts may provide reviews of our AquaRefining technology, as well as competitive technologies, and perception of our offerings in the marketplace may be significantly influenced by these reviews. We have no control over what these industry analysts report, and because industry analysts may influence current and potential customers, our brand could be harmed if they do not provide a positive review of our products and platform capabilities or view us as a market leader.

 

We may be at an increased risk of securities class action litigation.  Historically, securities class action litigation has often been brought against a company following a decline in the market price of its securities. This risk is especially relevant for us because early-stage companies have experienced significant stock price volatility in recent years. If we were to be sued, it could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources, which could harm our business. In 2017, a securities class action lawsuit and shareholder derivative lawsuit were filed against us.  In 2021, we were able to settle both actions through our issuance of $500,000 of our common shares and our adoption of limited corporate governance reforms, however we incurred significant legal costs in defending both actions and our management was required to devote significant time in managing the defense of the actions.

 

We maintain director and officer insurance that we regard as reasonably adequate to protect us from potential claims; however, we are responsible for meeting certain deductibles under the policies and, in any event, we cannot assure you that the insurance coverage will adequately protect us from claims made. Further, the costs of insurance may increase and the availability of coverage may decrease. As a result, we may not be able to maintain our current levels of insurance at a reasonable cost, or at all, which might make it more difficult to attract qualified candidates to serve as executive officers or directors.

 

 

16

 

Future sales of substantial amounts of our common stock, or the possibility that such sales could occur, could adversely affect the market price of our common stock. We cannot predict the effect, if any, that future issuances or sales of our securities or the availability of our securities for future issuance or sale, will have on the market price of our common stock. Issuances or sales of substantial amounts of our securities, or the perception that such issuances or sales might occur, could negatively impact the market price of our common stock and the terms upon which we may obtain additional equity financing in the future.

 

We have not paid dividends in the past and have no plans to pay dividends. We plan to reinvest all of our earnings, to the extent we have earnings, in order to pursue our business plan and cover operating costs and to otherwise become and remain competitive. We do not plan to pay any cash dividends with respect to our securities in the foreseeable future. We cannot assure you that we would, at any time, generate sufficient surplus cash that would be available for distribution to the holders of our common stock as a dividend. Therefore, you should not expect to receive cash dividends on our common stock.

 

Our charter documents and Delaware law may inhibit a takeover that stockholders consider favorable. Provisions of our certificate of incorporation and bylaws and applicable provisions of Delaware law may delay or discourage transactions involving an actual or potential change in control or change in our management, including transactions in which stockholders might otherwise receive a premium for their shares, or transactions that our stockholders might otherwise deem to be in their best interests. The provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws:

 

 

limit who may call stockholder meetings;

 

do not provide for cumulative voting rights;

 

establish an advance notice procedure for stockholders' proposals to be brought before an annual meeting, including proposed nominations of persons for election to our board of directors, and

 

provide that all vacancies may be filled by the affirmative vote of a majority of directors then in office, even if less than a quorum.

 

In addition, Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law may limit our ability to engage in any business combination with a person who beneficially owns 15% or more of our outstanding voting stock unless certain conditions are satisfied. This restriction lasts for a period of three years following the share acquisition. These provisions may have the effect of entrenching our management team and may deprive you of the opportunity to sell your shares to potential acquirers at a premium over prevailing prices. This potential inability to obtain a control premium could reduce the price of our common stock.

 

Our bylaws designate the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum for certain litigation that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with the Company. Our bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware shall be the sole and exclusive forum for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to us or our stockholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim against us or any our directors, officers or other employees arising pursuant to any provision of the Delaware General Corporation Law or our certificate of incorporation or bylaws, or (iv) any action asserting a claim against us or any our directors, officers or other employees governed by the internal affairs doctrine. This forum selection provision in our bylaws may limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or any of our directors, officers or other employees.

 

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

None.

 

Item 1C.

Cybersecurity

 

At Aqua Metals, Inc., we are committed to protecting our information systems, data, and sensitive information from unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber-attacks. In this section, we provide an overview of our cybersecurity practices and the measures we have implemented to mitigate cybersecurity risks. We have established comprehensive cybersecurity policies and procedures that outline the standards and guidelines for safeguarding our digital assets. These policies cover areas such as access controls, data encryption, network security, incident response, and employee awareness training. We regularly conduct thorough assessments to identify and evaluate potential cybersecurity risks. These assessments help us understand our vulnerabilities and prioritize our efforts to mitigate those risks. We have implemented risk management strategies that include proactive monitoring, and vulnerability scanning. Due to evolving cybersecurity threats, it has and will continue to be difficult to prevent, detect, mitigate, and remediate cybersecurity incidents. While we have not experienced any material cybersecurity threats or incidents as of the date of this Report, our cybersecurity program might not be able to prevent or mitigate future successful attacks, threats or incidents.

 

To prevent cyber threats, we have implemented a multi-layered approach to security. This includes firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and regular software patching. We also enforce strong password policies and implement two-factor authentication for sensitive systems. In the event of a cybersecurity incident, we have a well-defined incident response plan in place. This plan includes procedures for containment, investigation, and recovery. We also maintain backups of critical data to ensure business continuity in case of a breach or system failure.

 

We believe that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. We provide regular training and awareness programs to educate our employees about best practices, potential threats, and their role in maintaining a secure environment. This includes phishing awareness, social engineering training, and ongoing communication about emerging threats.

 

Governance

 

Cybersecurity holds a critical position within our risk management framework, drawing significant attention from both our Board and management. Oversight of cybersecurity risks is vested in our Audit Committee, which regularly receives updates from senior management. These updates, provided as needed, feature insights from our leaders in information security. Topics covered include the identification of existing and emerging cybersecurity threats, progress reports on risk mitigation efforts, disclosure of cybersecurity incidents, and updates on key information security initiatives. Furthermore, our Board members engage in informal discussions with management regarding cybersecurity news and assess any revisions made to our cybersecurity risk management strategies.

 

 

17

 

Item 2.

Properties

 

Our executive offices are presently located in 4,183 square feet of class A office space in Reno, Nevada. We lease this facility at a lease rate of approximately $11,000 per month. The lease term began in September, 2021 and expires September 30, 2024.

 

We have developed and lease an Innovation Center focused on applying Aqua Metals technology to lithium-ion battery recycling. We lease this facility at a lease rate of approximately $11,000 per month. The original lease term expired on December 31, 2021, but was renewed for a three year period which commenced on January 1, 2022 and expires on December 31, 2024.

 

Our executive offices were previously located in 21,697 square feet of office and industrial space in a multi-building commercial project known as “Marina Village” located in Alameda, California. This lease was terminated in February 2022.

 

We owned a 136,750 square foot recycling facility on 11.73 acres of land located in TRIC, a 107,000-acre park located nine miles east of Reno, Nevada on I-80. As noted in Note 4, on April 26, 2023, the Company sold the real property to Comstock Inc. for $15.25 million. As noted in Note 13, after paying the note payable, the Company received the net proceeds of approximately $5.7 million.

 

In February 2023, we purchased a property located in TRIC. The property includes both the land and an existing building. The land totals approximately five acres and the building is approximately 21,000 square feet. The Company is currently redeveloping the existing facility and installing our first commercial-scale Li AquaRefining system, which will process an estimated 3,000 tonnes of materials annually. The Company is also exploring plans to develop the remaining land on the property to expand capacity and operations.

 

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

 

For a description of our material pending legal proceedings, please see Note 15, Commitments and Contingencies, to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

Not applicable.

 

18

 

 

PART II

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

Market Information

 

Our common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market under the symbol “AQMS.” 

 

Holders of Record

 

As of March 22, 2024, there were eleven holders of record of our common stock.

 

Dividend Policy

 

We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our common stock. We presently intend to retain earnings, if any, to finance the operation and expansion of our business.

 

Equity Compensation Plan Information

 

We have adopted the Aqua Metals, Inc. 2014 Stock Incentive Plan providing for the grant of non-qualified stock options and incentive stock options to purchase shares of our common stock and for the grant of restricted and unrestricted share grants. We have reserved 2,127,306 shares of our common stock under the plan. All of our officers, directors, employees and consultants are eligible to participate under the plan. The purpose of the plan is to provide eligible participants with an opportunity to acquire an ownership interest in our company.

 

In 2019, our board of directors adopted the Aqua Metals, Inc. 2019 Stock Incentive Plan (the “2019 Plan”). A total of 18,500,000 shares of common stock was authorized for issuance pursuant to the 2019 Plan. The 2019 Plan provides for the following types of stock-based awards: incentive stock options; non-statutory stock options; restricted stock; and performance stock. The 2019 Plan, under which equity incentives may be granted to employees and directors under incentive and non-statutory agreements, requires that the option price may not be less than the fair value of the stock at the date the option is granted. Option awards are exercisable until their expiration, which may not exceed 10 years from the grant date.

 

The following table sets forth the number and weighted-average exercise price of securities to be issued upon exercise of outstanding options and warrants, and the number of securities remaining available for future issuance, under our equity compensation plan at December 31, 2023.

 

                   

Number of

 
   

Number of

           

Securities

 
   

Securities to be

   

Weighted-

   

Remaining

 
   

Issued Upon

   

Average Exercise

   

Available for

 
   

Exercise of

   

Price of

   

Future Issuance

 
   

Outstanding

   

Outstanding

   

Under Equity

 
   

Options, Warrants

   

Options and

   

compensation

 
   

and Rights

   

Warrants

   

Plans

 

Equity compensation plans approved by stockholders

    8,654,491

(1)

  $       1,420,454  

Equity compensation plans not approved by stockholders

    575,993

(2)

  $ 1.34          

 

(1) Includes 8,654,491 relating to restricted stock units under our stock-based compensation plans.

 

(2) Consists of warrants issued in connection with financing activities.

 

Unregistered Sales of Equity Securities and Use of Proceeds

 

None.

 

Item 6.

Reserved

 

None.

 

19

 

 

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

General

 

Aqua Metals is engaged in the business of applying its commercialized clean, water-based recycling technology principles to develop the clean and cost-efficient recycling solutions for both lead and lithium-ion (“Li”) batteries. Our recycling process is a patented hydro- and electrometallurgical technology that is a novel, proprietary and patented process we developed and named AquaRefining. AquaRefining is a low-emissions, closed-loop recycling technology that replaces polluting furnaces and hazardous chemicals with electricity-powered electroplating to recover valuable metals and materials from spent batteries with higher purity, lower emissions, and with minimal waste. The modular “Aqualyzers” cleanly generate ultra-pure metal one atom at a time, closing the sustainability loop for the rapidly growing energy storage economy.

 

Our process was originally designed for lead recycling. Lead is a globally traded commodity with a worldwide market value in excess of $20 billion. We are also applying our commercialized clean, water-based recycling technology principles with the goal of developing the cleanest and most cost-efficient recycling solution for lithium-ion batteries. We believe our process has the potential to produce higher quality products at a lower operating cost without the damaging effects of furnaces and greenhouse emissions. Aqua Metals estimates the total addressable market for lithium-ion battery recycling will be approximately $9 billion by 2025 and grow to exceed lead battery recycling by the end of the decade. 

 

In February 2021, we announced our entry into the lithium-ion battery (LiB) recycling market through a key provisional patent we filed that applies the same innovative AquaRefining approach. In August 2021, we announced we had established our Innovation Center in TRIC focused on applying our proven technology to LiB recycling research and development and prototyping. Our strategic decision to apply our proven clean, closed-loop hydrometallurgical and electrochemical recycling experience to lithium-ion battery recycling is designed to meet the growing demand for critical metals driven by the global transition to electric vehicles; growth in internet data centers; and alternative energy applications including solar, wind, and grid-scale storage. 

 

During the first half of 2022, we announced our ability to recover copper, lithium hydroxide, nickel and cobalt from lithium-ion battery black mass at the Company’s Innovation Center. During 2022, we built our fully-integrated pilot system, located within the company’s Innovation Center, which is designed to allow Aqua Metals to be the first company in North America to recycle battery minerals from black mass and sell them in the U.S. and position the Company as the first LiB recycler in North America to align with the U.S. government’s goal of retaining strategic battery minerals within the domestic supply chain.

 

During 2022, we conducted environmental comparisons based on Argonne National Lab’s modeling of lithium battery supply chains – called EverBatt. The initial results indicate that AquaRefining is a cleaner approach to LiB recycling, producing far less CO2 waste streams than the two evaluated primary processes currently on the market which include smelting and chemically driven hydrometallurgical process. In December of 2022, we completed equipment installation and began to operate our first-of-a-kind LiB recycling facility, utilizing electricity to recycle instead of intensive chemical processes, fossil fuels, or high-temperature furnaces. In January of 2023, Aqua Metals recovered its first metals from recycling lithium batteries using the patent-pending Li AquaRefining process and is currently scaling operations at the Company’s pilot facility.

 

In February 2023, we acquired a five-acre recycling campus at TRIC. When fully developed, the facility is designed, to process up to 10,000 tonnes of lithium-ion battery material each year using our proprietary AquaRefining technology. We expect to complete development of phase one, including all equipment installation, by the end second quarter 2024 and to commence operations at the new campus in the third quarter of 2024. Our initial plans call for upgrading the current building to install a commercial-scale Li AquaRefining system capable of recycling 3,000 tons of lithium battery ‘black mass’ each year. We expect to complete redevelopment of the current space and finalize equipment installation this year, and to commence operations at the new campus in the third quarter of 2024. The purchase of the new property was funded with a non-dilutive loan. We also intend to finance the development of Phase One through a non-dilutive loan. The Company is currently in discussions with a provider of debt financing that has provided financing in the past.

 

Our focus for the lead market is providing equipment and licensing of our lead acid battery recycling technologies in an enabler model which allows us to work with anyone in the industry globally and address the entire marketplace.  Our focus for the lithium market includes operating our first-of-a-kind lithium battery recycling facility, utilizing electricity to recycle instead of intensive chemical processes, fossil fuels, or high-temperature furnaces. We are also exploring partnership and/or joint ventures agreements, particularly as our Li AquaRefining matures through 2024. We believe that Aqua Metals is in a position to become one of the few critical minerals recovery players for which our environmental and economic value proposition should generate both great commercial wins and potentially government grants to accelerate our credibility and progress.

 

20

 

During the year ended December 31, 2023, we issued 3,244,302 shares of common stock pursuant to an At the Market Issuance Sales Agreement ("ATM") for net proceeds of $3.8 million. We raised a net of $18.3 million in the third quarter of 2023 from the public offering of our common shares and a net of $4.6 million from the sale of our common stock to Yulho.

 

Results of Operations for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2023 Compared to the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2022

 

During the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, revenue resulted from the sale of inventory consisting of lead compounds that were generated during operation of our former TRIC facility. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, product sales consisted of lead bullion, lead compounds and plastics that were generated through the AquaRefining process. The following table summarizes results of operations with respect to the items set forth below for the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 and 2022 together with the percentage change from the twelve months ended December 31, 2022 for those items (in thousands).

 

   

Year ended December 31,

 
                   

Favorable

   

%

 
   

2023

   

2022

   

(Unfavorable)

   

Change

 

Product sales

  $ 25     $ 4     $ 21       525 %

Plant operations

    6,282       3,959       (2,323 )     (59 )%

Research and development cost

    1,741       1,813       72       4 %

Impairment expense

    4,851       579       (4,272 )     (738 )%

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

    (23 )     (596 )     (573 )     96 %

General and administrative expense

    11,638       9,815       (1,823 )     (19 )%

Total operating expense

  $ 24,489     $ 15,570     $ (8,919 )     (57 )%

 

Except for nominal revenue generated from the sale of lead finished goods, we did not generate revenue during the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022. Plant activity during 2023 and 2022 consisted of testing our lithium-ion battery recycling technology, developing the prototype system activities, and quickly advancing from the planning and validation phases to execution and operation of our pilot facility and the build out of our commercial facility.    

 

Plant operations includes supplies and related costs, salaries and benefits, consulting and outside services costs, depreciation and amortization costs, insurance, travel and overhead costs. Plant operations increase approximately $2,323,000 or 59% for the twelve months ended December 31, 2023, as compared to the twelve months ended December 31, 2022 as a result of an increase in payroll and payroll related fees of approximately $1,702,000, as we hired additional staff to operate the pilot facility, process black mass and build out of our commercial facility in addition to an increase of $482,000 in legal fees and other service costs.

 

Research and development cost includes expenditures related to the improvement of the AquaRefining technology and the development of our lithium-ion battery recycling process. During the twelve months ended December 31, 2023, research and development costs decreased approximately $72,000 or 4% from the comparable period in 2022. Research and development is a key part of our business strategy and includes our focus on improving the Company's proprietary technology for LAB recycling and advancing our research related to the application of AquaRefining to recycling lithium-ion batteries. The decrease was driven by moving our focus from R&D to operating our fully integrated pilot system at the Innovation Center and build out of our commercial facility.

 

For the year ended December 31, 2023, we recognized a non-cash impairment charge of $4,851,000, subsequent to an analysis of our investment and construction in progress ("CIP") with regard to our investment in LINICO and ACME Metals. We recognized a loss on the investment in LINICO of approximately $1,400,000 during the year ended December 31, 2023 as the result of the sale of our LINICO common stock to LINICO's parent Comstock Inc., for $600,000 payable in twelve equal monthly installments commercing in January 2024. In addition, we recognized a loss of $3,451,000 million related to the ACME CIP as a result of the suspension of the development of recycling operations at the ACME Metals Taiwanese facility.  During 2023, management has shifted focus away from the original service under the ACME lead recycling license agreement to a new primary focus on the Lithium recycling business as a Company. As a result, management sees a decrease in the utilization of the ACME plant and its related operations, and assessed that the future expected cash flows connected with ACME are at or near zero. For the year ended December 31, 2022, we recognized a write down to fair market value of our assets held for sale of approximately $579,000. We recorded a gain of $700,000 that resulted from the write-off of plant commitment accrued expenses and $100,000 gain that resulted from the sale of CIP equipment. The gain was offset by a loss on the sale of assets held for sale of approximately $100,000 and $100,000 bad debt resulting from the sale of the battery breaker.

 

We recognized a gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment of approximately $23,000 during the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 compared to a gain of $596,000 for the twelve months ended December 31, 2022. For the twelve months ended December 31, 2022, the gain on property, plant and equipment resulted from the write-off of plant commitment accrued expenses. Plant clean-up and repair of fire damaged areas were completed by the end of June 30, 2022.

 

General and administrative expense increased approximately $1,823,000, or 19%, for the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 compared to the twelve months ended December 31, 2022. The increase in general and administrative expenses for the the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 includes $1,237,000 in payroll and payroll-related expenses, as well as an increase of $780,000 in travel-related expenses, advertising and promotion expenses, and overhead expenses, offset by a $300,000 decrease in professional fees.

 

The following table summarizes our other income and interest expense for the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022 together with the percentage change in those items (in thousands).

 

   

Year ended December 31,

 
                   

Favorable

   

%

 
   

2023

   

2022

   

(Unfavorable)

   

Change

 
                                 

Interest expense

  $ (621 )   $ (125 )   $ (496 )     397 %

Interest and other income

  $ 1,147     $ 262     $ 885       338 %

Total other income (expense), net

  $ 526     $ 137     $ 389       284 %

 

We recognized interest expense of $621,000 for the year ended December 31, 2023 and $125,000 for the year ended December 31, 2022. The increase in interest expense from the prior year is due to the interest paid on the two loans secured in September 2022 and February 2023.

 

For the year ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, and we recorded approximately $1,147,000 and $262,000 in interest and other income, respectively, an increase of $885,000 or 338%. The $513,000 increase in interest and $242,000 in other revenue is attributable to increased interest on our bank deposits and miscellaneous income from a non-recurring engineering arrangement with 6K Energy, respectively.

 

21

 

Liquidity and Capital Resources

 

As of December 31, 2023, we had total assets of $33.6 million and working capital of $13.7 million.

 

The following table summarizes our cash provided by (used in) operating, investing and financing activities (in thousands):

 

   

Year ended December 31,

 
   

2023

   

2022

 

Net cash used in operating activities

  $ (3,193 )   $ (10,148 )

Net cash used in investing activities

  $ (9,813 )   $ (3,420 )

Net cash provided by financing activities

  $ 22,446     $ 12,513  

 

Net cash used in operating activities

 

Net cash used in operating activities for the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022 was approximately $3.2 million and $10.1 million, respectively. Net cash used in operating activities during each of these periods consisted primarily of our net loss adjusted for non-cash items such as depreciation, amortization, and stock-based compensation charges as well as net changes in working capital. During the year ended December 31, 2023, we recognized $12.3 million proceeds from sales and leasing of building to LINICO, $1.4 million expense for impairment on LINICO investment and approximately $3.5 million expense for impairment on ACME CIP. During the year ended December 31, 2022, we recognized a $0.6 million gain on disposal of property and equipment and approximately $0.6 million expense for impairment on assets held for sale.

 

Net cash used in investing activities

 

Net cash used in investing activities for the year ended December 31, 2023 was $9.8 million compared to $3.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2022. During these periods, net cash in investing operations primarily includes fixed asset acquisitions, deposits for future fixed asset purchases and proceeds received from sale of equipment, respectively. 

 

Net cash provided by financing activities

 

Net cash provided by financing activities for the year ended December 31, 2023 consisted of $3.8 million in net proceeds from the sale of Aqua Metals shares pursuant to the at-the-market offering, or ATM, $2.9 million in net proceeds from the loan agreement secured with the Summit Investment Services, LLC, $18.3 million in net proceeds from our July 2023 public offering and $4.6 million in net proceeds from the Yulho transaction, offset by the $6 million used to pay off the note payable as noted in Note 13 and by $1.1 million related to tax withholdings to cover RSU vesting . Net cash provided by financing activities for the year ended December 31, 2022 consisted of $6.5 million net proceeds from ATM shares sales and $5.9 million net proceeds from the loan we secured in September 2022.

 

As of December 31, 2023, we had total cash of $16.5 million and working capital of $13.7 million. As of the date of this report, we believe that we will require additional capital in order to fund our current level of ongoing costs over the next twelve months and move forward with our current business strategy. There can be no assurance that we will be able to acquire the necessary funding on commercially reasonable terms or at all. We intend to seek funds through the sale of equity or debt financing. Funding that includes the sale of our equity may be dilutive. If such financing is not available on satisfactory terms, we may be unable to further pursue our business plan and we may be unable to continue operations. 

 

Due to our lack of revenue from commercial operations, significant losses and need for additional capital, there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued.

 

22

 

Critical Accounting Policies and Significant Judgments and Estimates

 

Our management’s discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based on our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or U.S. GAAP. The preparation of our consolidated financial statements requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the consolidated financial statements, and the reported amounts of expenses during the period. Significant items subject to such estimates and assumptions include the carrying amount and valuation of long-lived assets, the valuation of conversion features of convertible debt, valuation allowances for deferred tax assets, the determination of estimated asset retirement obligations, the determination of stock option expense, and the determination of the fair value of stock warrants issued. Our actual results could differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

 

While our significant accounting policies are more fully described in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we believe that the following accounting policies are the most critical to assist stockholders and investors reading the consolidated financial statements in fully understanding and evaluating our financial condition and results of operations.

 

Property, plant and equipment, net

 

Property, plant and equipment are stated at cost net of accumulated depreciation. Depreciation on property and equipment is calculated on the straight-line basis over the estimated useful lives of the assets. Leasehold improvements are depreciated over the shorter of the life of the asset or the remaining term of the lease. Upon the retirement or sale of our property and equipment, the cost and associated accumulated depreciation are removed from the consolidated balance sheet, and the resulting gain or loss is reflected on the consolidated statement of operations. Maintenance and repair expenditures are expensed as incurred while major improvements that increase the functionality, output or expected life of an asset are capitalized and depreciated over the estimated useful life.

 

We periodically evaluate our property, plant and equipment assets for indications that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. During the year 2023, management has shifted focus away from the original service under the license agreement (Lead business) to a new focus (Lithium business) as a Company. As such, management sees a decline in the utilization of the ACME plant and it’s related operations. At December 31, 2023, we recognized write down of approximately $3,451,000 million to equipment under construction that was not yet capitalized related to the ACME CIP as a result of the suspension of the development of recycling operations at the ACME Metals Taiwanese facility. As of December 31, 2022, management compared the carrying value of the assets held for sale against current fair market values. We determined the carrying value needed to be reduced to align with current fair market values. At December 31, 2022, we recognized write down on the assets held for sale to fair market value and $579,000.

 

Intangible and other long-lived assets

 

The intangible assets consist of a patent application contributed to us by five founding stockholders, patent applications for technology developed by us and trademark applications. The useful life of the intangible assets has been determined to be ten years and the assets are being amortized. We periodically evaluate our intangible and other long-lived assets for indications that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. In reviewing for impairment, we compare the carrying value of such assets to the estimated undiscounted future cash flows expected from the use of the assets and their eventual disposition. When the estimated undiscounted future cash flows are less than their carrying amount, an impairment loss is recognized equal to the difference between the assets’ fair value and their carrying value. In addition to the recoverability assessment, we routinely review the remaining estimated lives of our long-lived assets. Any reduction in the useful life assumption will result in increased depreciation and amortization expense in the period when such determination is made, as well as in subsequent periods. We evaluate the need to record impairment during each reporting period. No impairment has been recorded. We determined that the estimated life of the intellectual property properly reflected the current remaining economic life of the asset.

 

 

23

 

Income taxes

 

We account for income taxes in accordance with the asset and liability method of accounting for income taxes. Under the asset and liability method, deferred assets and liabilities are recognized based upon anticipated future tax consequences attributable to differences between financial statement carrying amounts of assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases. The provision for income taxes is comprised of the current tax liability and the changes in deferred tax assets and liabilities. We established a valuation allowance to the extent that it is more-likely-than-not that deferred tax assets will not be recoverable against future taxable income.

 

We recognize the effect of uncertain income tax positions only if those positions are more-likely-than-not of being sustained. Recognized income tax positions are measured at the largest amount that is greater than 50% likely of being realized. Changes in recognition or measurement are reflected in the period in which the change in judgment occurs.

 

Warrants

 

The Company classifies common stock purchase warrants as equity if the contracts (i) require physical settlement or net-share settlement or (ii) give the Company a choice of net-cash settlement or settlement in its own shares (physical settlement or net-share settlement). The Company classifies any contracts that (i) require net-cash settlement (including a requirement to net cash settle the contract if an event occurs and if that event is outside the control of the Company), (ii) give the counterparty a choice of net-cash settlement or settlement in shares (physical settlement or net-share settlement), or (iii) contain reset provisions as either an asset or a liability. The Company assesses classification of its freestanding derivatives at each reporting date to determine whether a change in classification between equity and liabilities is required. 

 

The value of the common stock purchase warrants are estimated using the Black-Scholes pricing model.

 

Stock-based compensation

 

We recognize compensation expense for stock-based compensation in accordance with ASC 718 “Compensation – Stock Compensation.” For employee stock-based awards, we calculate the fair value of the award using the closing price of the common stock on date of grant date. For stock-options we calculate the fair value of the award on the date of grant using the Black-Scholes-Merton method; the expense is recognized over the service period for awards to vest. 

 

For stock price hurdle restricted share units the fair value of the award is calculated on the date of grant using a Monte Carlo simulation model utilizing several key assumptions, including share price volatility, the risk-free rate of return, the expected dividend yield and other award design features.

 

The Company recognizes forfeitures as they occur.

 

Recent accounting pronouncements

 

See discussion of recent accounting pronouncements in Note 2 of the Consolidated Financial Statements located in Item 8 in this Annual Report.

 

Material cash requirements

 

As of December 31, 2023, we and our subsidiaries had outstanding $2,958,000 amount of indebtedness, net of issuance costs, $285,000 interest-only payments are due in the succeeding 12 months. As of December 31, 2023, our total minimum lease payments was $283,000, of which all is due in the succeeding 12 months. For details regarding our indebtedness and lease obligations, refer to Note 12, Leases, and Note 13, Note payable, to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Contractual Obligations and Commitments

 

Operating lease obligations

 

We currently have two operating leases for real estate. We lease our Reno and McCarran, Nevada spaces under non-cancelable operating leases. The Reno, Nevada lease expires in 2024. The initial lease term for our mixed office and warehouse space in McCarran, Nevada expired on December 31, 2021. We elected to exercise our first extension option provided for in the McCarran, Nevada lease agreement, which extended the current term of the lease to December 31, 2024.

 

Finance lease obligation

 

We currently maintain one finance lease for equipment. In November 2021, we entered into a finance lease for a modular laboratory which expires in October of 2024.

 

Note payable

 

Aqua Metals Reno, Inc. entered into a $3,000,000 loan agreement with Summit Investment Services, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company (the “Lender”) on February 1, 2023. See Note 13 in the accompanying notes to the consolidated financial statements for additional information.

 

 

24

 

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

Not applicable.

 

25

 

 

 
Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

Index To Consolidated Financial Statements

 

 

Page

 

 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm (PCAOB ID: 686)27
  

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm (PCAOB ID: 32)

29

 

 

Consolidated Balance Sheets at December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022

30

 

 

Consolidated Statements of Operations for the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022

31

 

 

Consolidated Statements of Stockholders’ Equity for the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022

32

 

 

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the years ended December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022

33

 

 

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

35

 

26

 

REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

 

 

To the Stockholders and the Board of Directors of Aqua Metals, Inc.

 

Opinion on the Consolidated Financial Statements

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheet of Aqua Metals, Inc. (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2023, the related consolidated statements of operations, stockholders’ equity, and cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2023, and the related notes (collectively referred to as the “financial statements”).  In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of December 31, 2023, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2023, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

 

Going Concern

 

The accompanying financial statements have been prepared assuming that the Company will continue as a going concern. As discussed in Note 1 to the financial statements, the Company has incurred substantial operating losses and negative cash flows from operations since inception that raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern. Management’s plans in regard to this matter are also described in Note 1. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty.

 

Basis for Opinion

 

These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management.  Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Company’s financial statements based on our audit. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (“PCAOB”) and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB. We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB.  Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud.  The Company is not required to have, nor were we engaged to perform, an audit of its internal control over financial reporting.  As part of our audit, we are required to obtain an understanding of internal control over financial reporting but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting.  Accordingly, we express no such opinion. Our audit included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks.  Such procedures include examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements.  Our audit also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

Critical Audit Matters

 

The critical audit matter communicated below is a matter arising from the current-period audit of the financial statements that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee and that: (1) relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements and (2) involved our especially challenging, subjective, or complex judgments. The communication of critical audit matters does not alter in any way our opinion on the financial statements, taken as a whole, and we are not, by communicating the critical audit matter below, providing separate opinions on the critical audit matter or on the accounts or disclosures to which it relates.

 

Critical Audit Matter Equity-Classified Warrants

 

As described in Note 14, the Company issued (1) a warrant to purchase 363,860 shares of the Company's common stock to the underwriter of the Company's July 2023 public offering of common stock and (2) a warrant to purchase 205,761 shares of the Company's common stock to an advisor in connection with the Company’s August 2023 securities purchase agreement with Yulho Co, Ltd. The Company evaluated whether the warrants were in the scope of ASC Topic 480 Distinguishing Liabilities from Equity, which discusses the accounting for instruments with characteristics of both liabilities and equity. The  application of the requirements in ASC Topic 480, and the resulting classification conclusion, is dependent on whether certain criteria are met. Based on its analysis, the Company concluded that the warrants did not meet any of the criteria to be subject to liability classification and are therefore classified as equity.

 

 

27

 

We identified the classification of the warrants as a critical audit matter. The principal considerations for that determination included the complexity and effort required in identifying all relevant features of and obligations under the instruments for evaluation against the criteria for classification. This required a high degree of auditor effort, including specialized skills and knowledge, and complex auditor judgment in evaluating the features of and obligations under the warrants and the determination of whether such features meet the criteria for liability-classification.

 

The primary procedures we performed to address this critical audit matter included:

 

 

We obtained an understanding of management’s process for identifying and evaluating the critical terms of the warrant agreements in determining the classification.

 

 

With the assistance of professionals in our firm that have specialized skills and knowledge in accounting for debt and equity instruments:

 

o

We evaluated management’s analysis and conclusions regarding the relevant provisions and features of the warrants in light of relevant guidance and the criteria for classification.

 

 

o

We read the securities purchase agreement and underlying warrant agreements to identify the relevant features and settlement provisions for our evaluation.

 

 

o

We independently evaluated the relevant features and settlement provisions of the warrants under relevant guidance considering the criteria for classification.

 

/s/ FORVIS, LLP

 

We have served as the Company’s auditor since 2023.

 

New York, New York

 

March 28, 2024

 

28

 

z01.jpg
 

REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

 

To the Board of Directors and

Stockholders of Aqua Metals, Inc. and Subsidiaries:

Reno, NV

 

Opinion on the Consolidated Financial Statements

 

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheet of Aqua Metals, Inc. and Subsidiaries (collectively the "Company") as of December 31, 2022, and the related consolidated statements of operations, stockholders' equity and cash flows, for the year ended December 31, 2022, and the related notes (collectively referred to as the "consolidated financial statements").

 

In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of December 31, 2022, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2022, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

 

Basis for Opinion

 

These consolidated financial statements are the responsibility of the Company's management.  Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Company's consolidated financial statements based on our audit.  We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) ("PCAOB") and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

 

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB.  Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the consolidated financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud.  Our audit also included performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances.

 

Our audit included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the consolidated financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks.  Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the consolidated financial statements.  Our audit also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the consolidated financial statements.  We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

/s/ ArmaninoLLP

 

San Ramon, California

 

March 9, 2023

 

We began serving as the Company's auditor in 2014. In 2023, we became the predecessor auditor.

 

z02.jpg

 

29

 

 

 

AQUA METALS, INC.

Consolidated Balance Sheets

(in thousands, except share and per share amounts)

 

  

December 31,

  

December 31,

 
  

2023

  

2022

 

ASSETS

        

Current assets

        

Cash and cash equivalents

 $16,522  $7,082 

Note receivable - LINICO

  600    

Accounts receivable

  67   12 

Lease receivable

     15,527 

Inventory

  929   278 

Assets held for sale

     47 

Prepaid expenses and other current assets

  181   263 

Total current assets

  18,299   23,209 
         

Non-current assets

        

Property, plant and equipment, net

  10,347   7,343 

Intellectual property, net

  281   461 

Investment in LINICO

     2,000 

Other assets

  4,673   489 

Total non-current assets

  15,301   10,293 
         

Total assets

 $33,600  $33,502 
         

LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDERS’ EQUITY

        
         

Current liabilities

        

Accounts payable

 $1,836  $1,075 

Accrued expenses

  2,467   1,780 

Building purchase deposit

     3,250 

Lease liability, current portion

  275   307 

Note payable, current portion

  35   5,899 

Total current liabilities

  4,613   12,311 
         

Lease liability, non-current portion

     275 

Note payable, non-current portion

  2,923    

Total liabilities

  7,536   12,586 
         

Commitments and contingencies (see Note 15)

          
         

Stockholders’ equity

        

Common stock; $0.001 par value; 200,000,000 shares authorized; 108,308,661 and 107,880,095, shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2023, respectively and 79,481,751 shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2022

  108   79 

Additional paid-in capital

  249,687   220,114 

Accumulated deficit

  (223,215)  (199,277)

Treasury stock, at cost; common shares: 428,566 and nil as of December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, respectively

  (516)   

Total stockholders’ equity

  26,064   20,916 
         

Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity

 $33,600  $33,502 

 

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 

30

 

 

AQUA METALS, INC.

Consolidated Statements of Operations

(in thousands, except share and per share amounts)

 

  

Year ended December 31,

 
  

2023

  

2022

 

Product sales

 $25  $4 
         

Operating cost and expense

        

Plant operations

  6,282   3,959 

Research and development cost

  1,741   1,813 

Impairment expense

  4,851   579 

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

  (23)  (596)

General and administrative expense

  11,638   9,815 

Total operating expense

  24,489   15,570 
         

Loss from operations

  (24,464)  (15,566)
         

Other income and expense

        

Interest expense

  (621)  (125)

Interest and other income

  1,147   262 
         

Total other income (expense), net

  526   137 
         

Loss before income tax expense

  (23,938)  (15,429)
         

Income tax expense

     (2)
         

Net loss

 $(23,938) $(15,431)
         

Weighted average shares outstanding, basic and diluted

  93,931,948   75,811,034 
         

Basic and diluted net loss per share

 $(0.25) $(0.20)

 

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 

31

 

 

AQUA METALS, INC.

Consolidated Statements of Stockholders’ Equity

(in thousands, except share amounts)

 

  

Common Stock

          

Treasury Stock

     
  

Shares

  

Amount

  

Additional Paid-in Capital

  

Accumulated Deficit

  

Shares

  

Amount

  

Total Stockholders' Equity (Deficit)

 
                             

Balances, December 31, 2021

  70,416,552  $70  $211,309  $(183,846)    $   27,533 
                             

Stock-based compensation

        2,253            2,253 

Common stock issued upon RSU vesting

  2,275,731   2               2 

Common stock issued for consulting services

  19,176      19            19 

Common stock issued for ATM share sales, net of $250 transaction costs

  6,742,069   7   6,512            6,519 

Common stock issued for directors fees

  28,223      21            21 

Net loss

           (15,431)        (15,431)
                             

Balances, December 31, 2022

  79,481,751  $79  $220,114  $(199,277)    $  $20,916 
                             

Stock-based compensation

        2,532            2,532 

RSUs issued for consulting services

  15,781      12            12 

Common stock issued to employees and directors, includes RSUs vesting and withholdings to satisfy tax withholdings on RSUs vesting

  1,633,506   2   (577)     428,566   (516)  (1,091)

Common stock issued for public offering, net of $1,713 transaction costs

  18,193,000   18   18,300            18,318 

Common stock issued for Yulho agreement, net of $372 transaction costs

  4,545,455   5   4,624            4,629 

Warrant expense related to Yulho agreement

        181            181 

Common stock issued for employee stock purchase plan sales

  192,707      122            122 

Common stock issued for class action settlement

  469,366   1   500            501 

Common stock issued for ATM share sales, net of $119 transaction costs

  3,244,302   3   3,783            3,786 

Common stock issued for director fees and other director incentives

  104,227      96            96 

Net loss

           (23,938)        (23,938)
                             

Balances, December 31, 2023

  107,880,095  $108  $249,687  $(223,215)  428,566  $(516) $26,064 

 

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 

32

 

 

AQUA METALS, INC.

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows

(in thousands)

 

  

Year ended December 31,

 
  

2023

  

2022

 

Cash flows from operating activities:

        

Net loss

 $(23,938) $(15,431)

Reconciliation of net loss to net cash used in operating activities

        

Depreciation and ROU asset amortization

  1,091   882 

Amortization of intellectual property

  180   179 

Warrant expense

  181    

Fair value of common stock issued for consulting services

  12   19 

Stock-based compensation

  2,534   2,255 

Fair value of common stock issued for director fees

  96   21 

Amortization of deferred financing costs

  128   13 

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

  (23)  (596)

Impairment of equipment

  3,451   579 

Impairment of LINICO investment

  1,400    

Changes in operating assets and liabilities

        

Accounts receivable

  (55)  120 

Proceeds from sale and leasing of building

  12,278   920 

Inventory

  (651)  (155)

Prepaid expenses and other current assets

  82   93 

Accounts payable

  139   22 

Accrued expenses

  209   1,428 

Other assets and liabilities

  (307)  (497)

Net cash used in operating activities

  (3,193)  (10,148)

Cash flows from investing activities:

        

Purchases of property, plant and equipment

  (5,598)  (4,771)

Proceeds from sale of equipment

  70   1,760 

Equipment deposits and other assets

  (4,285)  91 

Investment in LINICO

     (500)

Net cash used in investing activities

  (9,813)  (3,420)

Cash flows from financing activities:

        

Proceeds from issuance of common stock, net of transaction costs

  22,947    

Proceeds from employee stock purchase plan

  14   108 

Payments on note payable

  (6,000)   

Proceeds from note payable, net

  2,931   5,886 

Cash paid for tax withholdings on RSUs vesting

  (1,092)   

Debt issuance costs

  (140)   

Proceeds from ATM, net

  3,786   6,519 

Net cash provided by financing activities

  22,446

 

  12,513 

Net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents

  9,440   (1,055)

Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of period

  7,082   8,137 

Cash and cash equivalents at end of period

 $16,522  $7,082 

 

33

 

AQUA METALS, INC.

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows

(in thousands)

 

(Continued)

 

  

Year ended December 31,

 
  

2023

  

2022

 

Supplemental disclosure of cash flow information:

        

Cash paid for interest

 $480  $84 

Cash paid for income taxes

 $  $2 
         

Supplemental disclosure of non-cash transactions

        

Acquisitions of property, plant and equipment included in accounts payable

 $1,072  $451 

Acquisitions of property, plant and equipment included in accrued expenses

 $1,857  $770 

Increase in note receivable resulting from sale of investment

 $600  $ 

Increase in equity included in accrued expenses

 $608  $ 

 

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 

34

 

AQUA METALS, INC.

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements 

 

 

1.

Organization and Operations

 

Aqua Metals is engaged in the business of applying its commercialized clean, water-based recycling technology principles to develop the clean and cost-efficient recycling solutions for both lead and lithium-ion (“Li”) batteries. Our recycling process is a patented hydro- and electrometallurgical technology that is a novel, proprietary and patented process we developed and named AquaRefining. AquaRefining is a low-emissions, closed-loop recycling technology that replaces polluting furnaces and hazardous chemicals with electricity-powered electroplating to recover valuable metals and materials from spent batteries with higher purity, lower emissions, and with minimal waste. The modular “Aqualyzers” cleanly generate ultra-pure metal one atom at a time, closing the sustainability loop for the rapidly growing energy storage economy.

 

We are in the process of demonstrating that Li AquaRefining, which is fundamentally non-polluting, can create the highest quality and highest yields of recovered minerals from lithium-ion batteries with lower waste streams and lower costs than existing alternatives.

 

Our focus for the lead market is providing equipment and licensing of our lead acid battery recycling technologies in an enabler model which allows us to work with anyone in the industry globally and address the entire marketplace.  Our focus for the lithium market includes operating our first-of-a-kind lithium battery recycling facility, utilizing electricity to recycle instead of intensive chemical processes, fossil fuels, or high-temperature furnaces. 

 

Liquidity and Going Concern Assessment

 

For the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, the Company reported a net loss of $23.9 million and $15.4 million, respectively, and negative cash from operations of $3.2 million (inclusive of $12.3 million of non-recurring proceeds from the sale of real estate) and $10.1 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2023, the Company had cash and cash equivalents of approximately $16.5 million, a working capital surplus of approximately $13.7 million and an accumulated deficit of $223.2 million. The Company has not generated revenues from commercial operations over the two years ended December 31, 2023, except for nominal sales of lead finished goods, and expects to continue incurring losses for the foreseeable future.

 

Management believes that the Company does not have sufficient capital resources to sustain operations through at least the next twelve months from the date of this filing. Additionally, in view of the Company’s expectation to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future it will be required to raise additional capital resources in order to fund its operations, although the availability of, and the Company’s access to such resources, is not assured. Accordingly, management believes that there is substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue operating as a going concern through the next twelve months from the date of this filing.

 

The accompanying consolidated financial statements have been prepared under the assumption the Company will continue to operate as a going concern, which contemplates the realization of assets and the settlement of liabilities in the normal course of business. The consolidated financial statements do not include any adjustments to reflect the possible future effects on the recoverability and classification of assets or the amounts of liabilities that may result from uncertainty related to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.

 

Reclassification of Prior Period Financial Statements

 

For the year ended December 31, 2023, impairment expense and gain on disposal of property and equipment were presented in the Consolidated Statement of Operations within loss from operations.

 

We have reclassified the prior period Consolidated Statement of Operations included in this filing to conform to the current period presentation, as shown in the following table:

 

  

Twelve Months Ended December 31, 2022

 
  

As Reported

  

Reclassification

  

As Reclassified

 

Operating cost and expense

            

Impairment expense

     579   579 

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

     (596)  (596)

Total operating expense

 $15,587  $(17) $15,570 

Income (loss) from operations

 $(15,583) $17  $(15,566)
             

Other income and expense

            

Impairment expense

  (579)  579    

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

  596   (596)   

Total other income (expense), net

 $154  $(17) $137 

 

35

 

In connection with the foregoing, we have also identified the following reclassifications which will be made to the 2023 periods to be presented in the interim financial statements in our 2024 10-Q filings:

 

  

Three Months Ended September 30, 2023

  

Nine Months Ended September 30, 2022

 
  

As Reported

  Reclassification  

As Reclassified

  

As Reported

  Reclassification  

As Reclassified

 

Operating cost and expense

                        

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

     -   -      (23)  (23)

Total operating expense

 $4,974  $-  $4,974  $14,345  $(23) $14,322 

Income (loss) from operations

 $(4,949) $-  $(4,949) $(14,320) $23  $(14,297)
                         

Other income and expense

                        

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

  -   -      23   (23)   

Total other income (expense), net

 $402  $-  $402  $408  $(23) $385 

 

  

Three Months Ended June 30, 2023

  

Six Months Ended June 30, 2023

 
  

As Reported

  Reclassification  

As Reclassified

  

As Reported

  Reclassification  

As Reclassified

 

Operating cost and expense

                        

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

     (3)  (3)     (23)  (23)

Total operating expense

 $4,855  $(3) $4,852  $9,371  $(23) $9,348 

Income (loss) from operations

 $(4,855) $3  $(4,852) $(9,371) $23  $(9,348)
                         

Other income and expense

                        

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

  3   (3)     23   (23)   

Total other income (expense), net

 $96  $(3) $93  $6  $(23) $(17)

 

  

Three Months Ended March 31, 2023

 
  

As Reported

  Reclassification  

As Reclassified

 

Operating cost and expense

            

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

     (20)  (20)

Total operating expense

 $4,516  $(20) $4,496 

Income (loss) from operations

 $(4,516) $20  $(4,496)
             

Other income and expense

            

Gain on disposal of property, plant and equipment

  20   (20)   

Total other income (expense), net

 $(90) $(20) $(110)

 

36

 
 

2.

Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

 

Basis of presentation and consolidation

 

The accompanying consolidated financial statements include those of Aqua Metals, Inc. and its subsidiaries (collectively, the “Company” or “Aqua Metals”), after elimination of all intercompany accounts and transactions. The Company has prepared the accompanying consolidated financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”) and pursuant to the rules and regulations of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).

 

Use of estimates

 

The preparation of the consolidated financial statements requires management of the Company to make a number of estimates and assumptions relating to the reported amount of assets and liabilities and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the consolidated financial statements, and the reported amounts of expenses during the period. Significant items subject to such estimates and assumptions include the carrying amount and valuation of long-lived assets, valuation allowances for deferred tax assets, the determination of stock option expense and the determination of the fair value of stock warrants issued. Actual results could differ from those estimates.

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

The Company considers all highly liquid instruments with original or remaining maturities of ninety days or less at the date of purchase to be cash equivalents. The Company maintains its cash balances in large financial institutions. Periodically, such balances may be in excess of federally insured limits.

 

Accounts receivable

 

The Company has traditionally sold its products to large well-established companies and extends credit without requiring collateral, based on an ongoing evaluation of the customer’s business prospects and financial condition. In the event that payment of a customer’s account receivable is doubtful, the Company would reserve the receivable under an allowance for doubtful accounts. As of December 31, 2023, the Company had no trade accounts receivable balance and has not created a reserve for doubtful accounts. The total accounts receivable balance as of  December 31, 2023 consisted of proceeds from the non-recurring engineering agreement with 6K Energy.

 

Note receivable

 

As of December 31, 2023, the Company has a note receivable from the sale of stock in LINICO totaling $600,000. The proceeds will be received over a 12 month installment starting in January 2024. As of December 31, 2023, we evaluated the need for an allowance for credit loss using the guidelines set forth in ASC 326 CECL, and have determined this note is fully collectible and, therefore, we have not recorded an allowance against this balance.

 

Inventory

 

Inventory is stated at the lower of cost or net realizable value. Cost is recorded on a first-in, first-out basis using the weighted average method. Net realizable value is determined as the estimated selling price in the ordinary course of business, less reasonably predictable costs of completion, disposal, and transportation. The Company records a write-down, if necessary, to reduce the carrying value of inventory to its net realizable value. The effect of these write-downs is to establish a new cost basis in the related inventory, which is not subsequently written up.

 

Property, plant and equipment, net

 

Property, plant and equipment are stated at cost net of accumulated depreciation. Depreciation on property, plant and equipment is calculated on the straight-line basis over the estimated useful lives of the assets. Leasehold improvements are depreciated over the shorter of the life of the asset or the remaining term of the lease. 

 

Property, plant and equipment are stated at cost net of accumulated depreciation. Depreciation on property, plant and equipment is calculated on the straight-line basis over the estimated useful lives of the assets. Leasehold improvements are depreciated over the shorter of the life of the asset or the remaining term of the lease. We periodically evaluate our property, plant and equipment assets for indications that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. During 2023, management has shifted focus away from the original service under the ACME lead recycling license agreement to a new primary focus on the Lithium recycling business as a Company. As a result, management sees a decrease in the utilization of the ACME plant and its related operations, and assessed that the future expected cash flows connected with ACME are at or near zero. Therefore, at  December 31, 2023, we recognized write down of approximately $3,451,000 million to equipment under construction that was not yet capitalized related to the ACME CIP as a result of the suspension of the development of recycling operations at the ACME Metals Taiwanese facility. As of  December 31, 2022, management compared the carrying value of the assets held for sale against current fair market values. We determined the carrying value needed to be reduced to align with current fair market values. At December 31, 2022, we recognized a write down of $579,000 on the assets held for sale to their fair market value.

 

 

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Intellectual property, net

 

Intellectual property consists of patent applications contributed to the Company by five founding stockholders and patent applications for technology developed by the Company. The useful life of this intellectual property has been determined to be ten years and the assets are being amortized straight-line over this period. The Company periodically evaluates its intangible and other long-lived assets for indications that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. In reviewing for impairment, the Company compares the carrying value of such assets to the estimated undiscounted future cash flows expected from the use of the assets and their eventual disposition. When the estimated undiscounted future cash flows are less than their carrying amount, an impairment loss is recognized equal to the difference between the assets’ fair value and their carrying value. In addition to the recoverability assessment, the Company routinely reviews the remaining estimated lives of its long-lived assets. Any reduction in the useful life assumption will result in increased depreciation and amortization expense in the period when such determination is made, as well as in subsequent periods. The Company evaluates the need to record impairment during each reporting period. As of December 31, 2023 and 2022, the Company determined that the estimated life of the intellectual property properly reflected the current remaining economic life of the asset.

 

Investment in LINICO

 

Investments, which may be made from time to time for strategic reasons (and not to engage in the business of investments) are included in non-current assets in the consolidated balance sheets. Investments are recorded at cost and the Company analyzes the value of investments on a quarterly basis. The nature and timing of the Company’s investments will depend on available capital at any particular time and the investment opportunities identified and available to the Company. The Company accounted for the LINICO investment under ASC 321, Investments-Equity Securities, using the measurement alternative of recording at cost as the investment in LINICO doesn’t have a readily determinable fair value. As of December 31, 2023, the Company sold its investment in LINICO and recorded an impairment of $1,400,000 and a receivable of $600,000.

 

Leases

 

The Company determines if an arrangement is a lease at inception. Operating lease right-of-use assets (“ROU assets”) and short-term and long-term lease liabilities are included in the consolidated balance sheets. ROU assets represent the right to use an underlying asset for the lease term and lease liabilities represent the Company’s obligation to make lease payments arising from the lease. Operating and finance lease ROU assets and liabilities are recognized at commencement date based on the present value of lease payments over the lease term. As most of the Company’s leases do not provide an implicit rate, the Company uses an incremental borrowing rate based on the information available at the commencement date in determining the present value of lease payments. The Company’s lease terms may include options to extend or terminate the lease. Lease expense for lease payments is recognized on a straight-line basis over the lease term. For lease agreements with terms less than 12 months, the Company has elected the short-term lease measurement and recognition exemption, and the Company recognizes such lease payments on a straight-line basis over the lease term.

 

Revenue recognition

 

The Company records revenue in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification ("ASC") 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers. ASC 606 provides a single comprehensive model for the recognition of revenue arising from contracts with customers and supersedes most current revenue recognition guidance, including industry-specific guidance. It requires an entity to recognize revenue when the entity transfers promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. ASC 606 creates a five-step model that requires entities to exercise judgment when considering the terms of contract(s), which includes (1) identifying the contract(s) with the customer, (2) identifying the separate performance obligations in the contract, (3) determining the transaction price, (4) allocating the transaction price to the separate performance obligations, and (5) recognizing revenue as each performance obligation is satisfied. ASC 606 requires additional disclosure about the nature, amount, timing and uncertainty of revenue and cash flows arising from customer contracts, including qualitative and quantitative information about contracts with customers, significant judgments and changes in judgments and assets recognized from costs incurred to obtain or fulfill a contract.

 

Revenue is generally recognized with the delivery of the Company’s products to customers. Sales, value add, and other taxes, if any, that are collected concurrent with revenue-producing activities are excluded from revenue as they are subsequently remitted to governmental authorities. Incidental items that are immaterial in the context of the contract are recognized as expense. Freight and shipping costs related to the transfer of the Company’s products to customers are included in revenue and cost of product sales. Payment on invoices is generally due within 30 days of the invoice.

 

Arrangements with Multiple Performance Obligations

 

Contracts with customers may include multiple performance obligations. A performance obligation is a promise in a contract to transfer a distinct good or service to the customer and is the unit of account in ASC 606. A contract’s transaction price is allocated to each distinct performance obligation and recognized as revenue when, or as, the performance obligation is satisfied. The Company expects that many of our contracts will have a single performance obligation as the promise to transfer the individual goods or services will not be separately identifiable from other promises in the contracts and therefore, not distinct. For contracts with multiple performance obligations, revenue will be allocated to each performance obligation based on the Company’s best estimate of the standalone selling price of each distinct good or service in the contract. The primary method used to estimate standalone selling prices is based on prices charged separately to customers or expected cost-plus margin. At present, the Company does not have any arrangements with multiple performance obligations.

 

Significant Judgments

 

The Company estimates variable consideration at the most likely amount to which it expects to be entitled and includes estimated amounts in revenue to the extent it is probable that a significant reversal of revenue recognized will not occur when the uncertainty associated with the variable consideration is resolved. Adjustments to revenue is recognized in the period when the uncertainty is resolved. To date, any adjustments to estimates have not been material.

 

Practical Expedients and Exemptions

 

The Company does not disclose the value of unsatisfied performance obligations for (i) contracts with an original expected length of one year or less and (ii) contracts for which we recognize revenue at the amount to which we have the right to invoice for services performed.

 

 

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Research and development

 

The Company conducts research and development activities, primarily focusing on refining recycling processes to increase yield and purity of recovered materials. This entails experimenting with different techniques, equipment, and operational parameters to enhance efficiency. All research and development expenditures are expensed as incurred.

 

Income taxes

 

The Company accounts for income taxes in accordance with the asset and liability method of accounting for income taxes. Under the asset and liability method, deferred assets and liabilities are recognized based upon anticipated future tax consequences attributable to differences between financial statement carrying amounts of assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases. The provision for income taxes is comprised of the current tax liability and the changes in deferred tax assets and liabilities. The Company establishes a valuation allowance to the extent that it is more-likely-than-not that deferred tax assets will not be recoverable against future taxable income.

 

The Company recognizes the effect of uncertain income tax positions only if those positions are more-likely-than-not of being sustained. Recognized income tax positions are measured at the largest amount that is greater than 50% likely of being realized. Changes in recognition or measurement are reflected in the period in which the change in judgment occurs.

 

Fair value measurements

 

The carrying amounts of cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, inventory, prepaid expenses and other current assets, accounts payable, and accrued expenses approximate fair value due to the short-term nature of these instruments. The carrying value of short and long-term debt, and lease liabilities also approximates fair value since these instruments bear market rates of interest or are calculated using market rates of interest. None of these instruments are held for trading purposes.

 

Fair value is defined as an exit price, representing the amount that would be received upon the sale of an asset or payment to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants. Fair value is a market-based measurement that is determined based on assumptions that market participants would use in pricing an asset or liability. A three-tier fair value hierarchy is used to prioritize the inputs in measuring fair value as follows:

 

Level 1. Quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities.

 

Level 2. Quoted prices for similar assets and liabilities in active markets, quoted prices for identical or similar assets or liabilities in markets that are not active, or other inputs that are observable, either directly or indirectly.

 

Level 3. Significant unobservable inputs that cannot be corroborated by market data.

 

The asset or liability’s fair value measurement within the fair value hierarchy is based upon the lowest level of any input that is significant to the fair value measurement.

 

There are no assets or liabilities that are measured at fair value on a recurring basis at December 31, 2023 or December 31, 2022.

 

Stock-based compensation

 

The Company recognizes compensation expense for stock-based compensation in accordance with ASC 718 “Compensation – Stock Compensation.” The fair value of restricted stock units ("RSUs") is measured on the grant date based on the closing fair market value of our common stock. The resulting cost is recognized over the period during which an employee is required to provide service in exchange for the awards, usually the vesting period, which is generally three years for RSUs. Stock-based compensation expense is recognized on a straight-line basis, net of actual forfeitures in the period.

 

The fair value of RSU grants with performance conditions is determined using the closing price of our common stock on date of grant. The calculated compensation cost is adjusted based on an estimate of awards ultimately expected to vest and our assessment of the probable outcome of the performance condition. The fair value of RSU grants with market conditions is calculated on the date of grant using a Monte Carlo simulation model utilizing several key assumptions, including expected share price volatility, the risk-free rate of return, the expected dividend yield and other award design features.

 

 

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Net loss per share

 

Basic net loss per share is computed by dividing net loss by the weighted average number of vested shares outstanding during the period. Diluted net loss per share is computed by giving effect to all potential dilutive common securities, options and warrants. Potential dilutive common shares include the dilutive effect of the common stock underlying in-the-money stock options and is calculated based on the average share price for each period using the treasury stock method. Under the treasury stock method, the exercise price of an option and the average amount of compensation cost, if any, for future services that the Company has not yet recognized when the option is exercised, are assumed to be used to repurchase shares in the current period.

 

For all periods presented in this report, unvested restricted stock, stock options and warrants were not included in the computation of diluted net loss per share because such inclusion would have had an antidilutive effect.

 

  

Year Ended December 31,

 

Excluded potentially dilutive weighted average securities (1):

 

2023

  

2022

 
         

Options to purchase common stock

  390,684   1,013,962 

Unvested restricted stock