Polaris Shipping, a Korean mid-sized shipper that carries raw material commodities for steelmakers and state utility supplier KEPCO, will build a downstream processing facility to turn out battery-grade lithium on the reclaimed land along the world’s longest Saemangeum seawall together with Australia’s Pilbara Minerals and local battery maker LG Chem.
State entity Saemangeum Development and Investment Agency (SDIA) said it signed a memorandum of understanding with Lithium Korea, a joint venture led by Polaris Shipping, to rent out 160,500 square meters of lot in the second industrial district in the vast reclaimed land along Saemangeum, a 33.9-kilometer sea dike connecting Gunsan and Buan on the west coast groomed as a new industrial hub.
The building of the first lithium plant in Korea will cost 345 billion won ($309 million).
Polaris owns 50 percent in Lithium Korea, Australian Lithium mining and developer Pilbara Minerals 30 percent, and Li-ion battery maker LG Chem 20 percent. The land is leased out up to 100 years for free under the privilege given out to a foreign entity in the free economic zone. Pilbara operates one of the world’s largest lithium mining and processing facility.
Once construction ends January, 2020, the facility will be able to process 30,000tpa of lithium hydroxide to supply to LG Chem and other Korean makers of electrical vehicle batteries.
Currently, battery makers rely entirely on imports. Domestically processed batteries will help to save import cost of about 300 billion won ($268 million) a year and strengthen the local lithium and EV industry, said the agency.
Demand for lithium chemicals that mostly went to bioengineering and smartphone batteries is expected to turn explosive in line with proliferation of EVs.
Lee Cheol-woo, SDIA chief, said the public agency hopes to draw additional investment in the lithium facility after it becomes operational in 2020.
By Lee Ji-yong and Lee Ha-yeon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]