SEJONG, Nov. 10 (Korea Bizwire) — The Saemangeum Industrial Complex is set to produce an annual 30,000 tons of lithium – one of the key materials for electric-vehicle batteries – starting in 2020.
Lithium manufacturer Lithium Korea will use 165,000 square meters of land at the Saemangeum Industrial Complex to begin the production of lithium in 2020, according to the Saemangeum Development and Investment Agency on Thursday.
The latest move by the Saemangeum Industrial Complex is expected to offset lithium imports from China and Australia, helping improve South Korea’s balance of trade.
With a 345 billion won investment from maritime shipping company Polaris Shipping, Pilbara Mineral and LG Chem, Lithium Korea was created, with the construction of the plants set to begin next April.
Boasting an annual production capacity of around 30,000 tons, the newly proposed lithium plants are expected to produce supplies for 500,000 vehicles each year while creating 180 jobs.
While Polaris Shipping is known for ore shipping, and Pilbara Mineral supplies spodumene, a mineral that is used to produce lithium, LG Chem will be the main consumer of the lithium production.
“What is most important is securing raw material. With the participation of raw material suppliers as business partners, we can produce lithium steadily,” an official at the Saemangeum Development and Investment Agency said.
Known as the white oil of the fourth industrial revolution, demand for lithium has increased significantly in recent years, as more countries seek to encourage the use of electric cars among the public.
Last year, nearly 25,000 tons of lithium were imported, with the price nearly doubling between 2015 and this year.
However, industry experts are hopeful that the Saemangeum initiative will replace nearly 300 billion won worth of imports with domestic production, boosting the competitiveness of the South Korean secondary battery market in the international community.
Issues surrounding lithium supply shortage and rising prices could also be dealt with in part, according to industry experts, when the new lithium plants are in operation.
While it’s not the first lithium plant to be built in the country, as POSCO has its own production line in Gwangyang, the Saemangeum Development and Investment Agency says its newly proposed plants will be able to produce ten times as much lithium as POSCO’s facility.