Posco gets Argentinian lithium mining rights

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Posco gets Argentinian lithium mining rights


The northern area of the Salar del Hombre Muerto salt flat in Argentina where Posco on Monday acquired lithium mining rights. [POSCO]

Posco acquired lithium mining rights in Argentina from Australian lithium miner Galaxy Resources at $280 million on Monday.

It is the first massive investment after CEO Choi Jeong-woo took office earlier this year, succeeding former CEO Kwon Oh-joon who started the lithium business at the steelmaker in search of the company’s future growth engine about eight years ago.

The deal gives Posco a package of mining tenements for 17,500 hectares of land in the northern area of the Salar del Hombre Muerto salt flat in Argentina. Posco expects to produce 25,000 tons of lithium every year for 20 years from its acquisition.

As soon as the deal is finalized this year, Posco plans to build a lithium facility in Argentina to start mass production from 2021. The produced lithium will be supplied to affiliate Posco ESM, which makes cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

The steelmaker has been trying to ramp up its lithium business as the global steel market suffers from oversupply and protectionist policies. Its plans have been delayed as it struggled to acquire mining rights for salt lakes.

This led Posco to develop alternative technologies to extract lithium from lithium minerals and used batteries instead of saltwater. According to the steelmaker, it is the only company in the world capable of producing lithium from three different sources.

As the steelmaker has already inked a deal with Australia’s Pilbara Minerals to purchase lithium minerals to produce 30,000 tons of lithium per year, it is expected to produce 55,000 tons of lithium from 2021 when the Argentina-based facility starts operating.

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