“This is lithium carbonate.” Posco Chairman Kwon Oh-joon poses holding an end product of lithium carbonate in his hands initially produced at a lithium extract plant in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province on Tuesday.
South Korean steelmaker Posco began the country’s first commercial production of lithium carbonate, a base material for lithium-ion batteries. The world’s fourth largest steelmaker held a ceremony to inaugurate a lithium extraction plant (PosLX) at its complex in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province on Tuesday.
The plant sitting on an area of 8,500 square meters is capable of producing 2,500 tons of lithium carbonate, a capacity powering 70 million notebooks.
The steelmaker spent seven years to independently develop the eco-friendly lithium extraction technology. Most of lithium phosphate, a basic material for lithium carbonate, can be recycled from wasted rechargeable batteries. The plant uses patented lithium extraction technology to extract lithium phosphate from saline water and convert it into lithium carbonate. The high-efficiency process cuts recovery time from up to 18 months to just eight hours or one month at the longest. Compared to existing processes, the new one’s recovery yield can be more than doubled to over 80 percent with near-perfect purity of more than 99.9 percent. The capacity allows the company to additionally produce lithium hydroxide, potassium and other high value products in parallel.
Posco already filed for more than 100 patents on lithium extraction in Korea and overseas.
Posco will supply lithium carbonate to battery makers LG Chem and Samsung SDI and to its affiliate Posco ESM, the manufacturer of anode materials for rechargeable batteries.
The factory is expected to add 25 billion won ($21.8 million) in annual sales and 60 jobs for locals.
The lithium extraction project was led by Posco Chairman Kwon Oh-joon, an in-house researcher turned CEO. Assuming his second term last month, Kwon vowed to ramp up Posco’s strength in non-steel segments.
By Moon Ji-woong
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