South Korea-based steelmaker POSCO will establish two Li-ion battery material joint ventures in China with leading cobalt supplier Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt. One company will focus on precursors; the other will produce cathodes.
Huayou Cobalt will own a 60% stake in the joint venture for precursors and POSCO the remaining 40%. POSCO will hold a 60% stake in the cathodes company, with Huayou Cobalt holding 40%. The joint ventures will aim to start production of precursors and cathodes with up to 4,600 ton annual capacity from the second half of 2020.
China’s Huayou Cobalt is the largest cobalt producer in China and is capable of supplying 50% of demand from lithium-ion battery producers. The company also owns a nickel mine. Its main products include cobalt tetroxide, cobalt oxide, cobalt carbonate, cobalt hydroxide, cobalt oxalate, cobalt sulfate and cobalt monoxide. The products are used for Li-ion battery cathode materials, high-temperature and cemented carbide, frits and glazes, rubber adhesive and petrochemical catalysts. The company has been active in cobalt and copper resources exploration and development in Africa since 2006.
POSCO, for its part, is busy expanding into business areas from steel to non-steel, from manufacturing to service, and from traditional roots to the future. Realizing the potential growth of the lithium market, POSCO began to develop new lithium extraction technologies in 2010.
Its new chemically-based lithium extraction technology is able to reduce extraction time while also improving efficiency and reliance on overseas imports. The first pilot program began in 2013, and in February of 2017, POSCO became the world’s first corporation to commercialize chemically-based lithium extraction technology.
In April 2017, POSCO CEO Kwon Ohjoon announced plans to build a smart factory that would be capable of producing anode materials for rechargeable batteries.
POSCO Chemtech has already expanded its production capacity to 6,000 tons per year, but with the newly announced plant, it will have the capacity to produce 30,000 tons per year with more than KRW 200 billion (US$190 million) in sales. Also, since the beginning of 2017, POSCO has been mass-producing PG-NCM (POSCO Gradient Nickel Cobalt Manganese), the high-capacity cathode material for low-speed electric vehicles.