Posco begins production of lithium carbonate

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Posco begins production of lithium carbonate

Posco, the nation’s largest steelmaker, is starting commercial production of lithium carbonate as part of its strategy to diversify its portfolio.

Lithium carbonate is a primary material in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in devices like laptops and phones. Posco’s factory will be Korea’s first lithium carbonate production plant and has the capacity to produce 2,500 tons a year, enough to make batteries for roughly 70 million laptops.

The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday to mark the opening of the factory in Gwangyang, South Jeolla.

The produced lithium carbonate will mainly be supplied to Posco ESM, which makes anodes for rechargeable batteries, and to major Korean battery makers LG Chem and Samsung SDI.

“Korea is home to the world’s leading battery makers, but we have been wholly depending on imports for lithium carbonate, which is the main material for batteries,” said an official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. “Posco’s lithium production for batteries shaves off worries of local battery makers on securing materials.”

Posco’s commercial production comes seven years after it developed its own lithium extraction technology. It can extract lithium phosphate from saltwater and dead batteries and then convert it to lithium carbonate in less than a month and a minimum of eight hours. Existing technology takes roughly 12 to 18 months.

The new plant in Gwangyang will only use lithium phosphate from companies recycling dead batteries for a more eco-friendly production process, the company said in a statement. In the future, it plans to extract lithium phosphate from saltwater overseas as well.

Worldwide demand for lithium-ion batteries has been increasing rapidly thanks to increased production of mobile devices. Lithium carbonate demand has increased to 66,000 tons in 2015 from just 6,000 tons in 2002.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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