A consortium led by South Korea’s POSCO and Samsung SDI, and including China’s Sichuan Fulin Industrial Group and Chile’s Molyment, has won a bid to build a cathode materials plant in Chile to support that country’s Li-ion batteries project.
POSCO and Samsung SDI will jointly invest about $54 million in the plant, which will produce 3,200 tonnes of cathode a year starting in the second half of 2021, which will be used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.
On 27 February, POSCO announced that it had agreed to buy up to 240,000 tonnes of lithium concentrate per year from Australian miner Pilbara Minerals to secure a stable source of raw materials to manufacture electric vehicle batteries. POSCO has also acquired a 4.75% stake in the mining company.
Pilbara owns a 100% stake in lithium mine in Pilgangoora, located in Western Australia, and plans to increase its production to 800,000 tons by gradually starting production of 300,000 tons of lithium concentrate from the second half of this year.
POSCO has developed its own technology for lithium extraction from brine, PosLX. PosLX technology has been able to produce lithium in less than three months, while existing lithium extraction technology takes at least 12 months to dry brine naturally.
However, POSCO’s lithium business has been delayed due to the bankruptcy of partner companies in South America, which have the Li salt reserves. POSCO has independently developed technologies to extract lithium from coal ore as well as brine, and completed the construction of a lithium carbonate commercialization plant with an annual capacity of 2,500 tons in Gwangyang in February last year.