POSCO, which took the secondary battery material business as a new growth engine, succeeded in securing a salt lake for lithium production.
The Korean stealmaker announced on August 27 that it has signed an agreement with Galaxy Resources, a resource development specialist in Perth, Australia, to purchase a salt lake in the northern part of Hombre Muerto in northwestern Argentina.
The salt lake POSCO has secured for US$280 million is as big as 17,500 hectares, which is equivalent to about one-third of Seoul city's total area. The company explained it can get salt water that can produce 25,000 tons of lithium every year for 20 years.
POSCO plans to finalize the acquisition of the mining right within this year and immediately obtain approval for construction of a lithium plant from the Argentine government. If the project proceeds as planned, POSCO will be able to produce lithium from 2021 in Argentina using the self-developed direct lithium extraction technology. It will have an annual lithium production capacity of 55,000 tons.
Locally produced lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate will be supplied as raw materials to POSCO ESM, which makes the secondary battery anode material (one of the four major intermediate parts of the battery). The POSCO group expects that if the lithium supply to POSCO ESM is reinforced, it will create synergy with POSCO Chemtech, which makes cathode materials, and will strengthen the group's competitiveness in the secondary battery materials business. It will also consolidate lithium supply to the domestic secondary battery manufacturing industry.
POSCO has been considering lithium production using brine since it developed its own lithium extraction technology. However, with the delay in securing a salt lake, it has developed a technology to extract lithium phosphate from wasted secondary batteries or to produce lithium using a mineral lithium concentrate. POSCO stressed that due to the delay in securing a salt lake, it has become the only company in the world that possesses the three lithium extraction technologies, and has built a portfolio of lithium raw materials.
Galaxy Resources, the other end of the agreement, was founded in 1973 and has been exploring and developing lithium in Australia, Canada, and Argentina.