South Korea's Posco boosts investment for secondary battery materials expansion

by Margaret Lau
Posco CEO Jeong-Woo Choi meets the Hombre Muerto workforce in 2019. Photo: Posco
South Korea’s Posco Group has announced plans to develop "eco-friendly high-purity nickel smelting technology”, as it speeds up the expansion of its secondary battery materials business to serve the electric vehicle market.

The move follows last month’s paid-in capital increase by Posco Chemical of one trillion South Korean won (KRW) (about £685m), to support expansion of the group’s core raw materials business for secondary batteries "such as lithium, nickel and graphite, along with the business of cathode and anode materials”.

In addition, the steel-making-based conglomerate said it will develop materials "for next-generation, all-solid-state batteries” and is securing graphite supplies from mines in Africa and Australia – "to reduce dependence on Chinese raw materials to less than 50% in the mid- to long-term”.

'Higher lithium reserves'

Meanwhile, the group released data indicating lithium reserves at the Hombre Muerto salt lake in northwest Argentina – where it acquired a package of mining rights from Australia’s Galaxy Resources in 2018 – are six times higher than the 2.2 million tons estimated on acquisition.

The lithium concentration was also confirmed to be a high concentration of 921mg/L on average, following an assessment conducted by US consultancy Montgomery & Associates.

Posco said its activities mean it has now "completed the material value chain”. The group plans to supply 220,000 tons of lithium and 100,000 tons of nickel by 2030, "establishing a production system of 400,000 tons of cathode materials and 260,000 tons of anode materials by 2030”.

In the secondary battery material segment, Posco has set its sights on achieving a 20% global market share and annual sales of KRW23tn.