POSCO earmarks $1.09 billion to boost lithium hydroxide production in Argentina

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : October 11, 2022, 17:53 Updated : May 16, 2023, 13:29

[Courtesy of POSCO Holdings]

SEOUL -- POSCO has earmarked $1.09 billion to produce 25,000 tons of lithium hydroxide, an inorganic compound used for electric vehicle batteries, in Argentina. The steel group has purchased lithium mining rights in a salt lake for $280 million to become a global player in the battery material market. 

POSCO Holdings, the group's holding company, has revealed a goal to produce 610,000 tons of cathode materials, 320,000 tons of anode materials, 300,000 tons of lithium and 22,000 tons of nickel annually by 2030. Lithium hydroxide is a key material for lithium-ion battery cathodes. Lithium hydroxide battery cathodes have more power density and a longer life cycle, but lithium hydroxide is in a much shorter supply than lithium carbonate.

In December 2021, POSCO unveiled its scheme to invest some $830 million in producing lithium hydroxide from the Hombre Muerto salt lake in Argentina. A production plant with an annual capacity of 25,000 tons is to be completed in the first half of 2024.
POSCO said in a statement on October 11 that its board has approved about $1.09 billion for additional investment in the construction of a new lithium carbonate production plant in Argitina. 

POSCO's move comes as battery manufacturers are actively investing in North America to cope with an inflation reduction act (IRA) that subsidizes electric vehicles using more than a certain percentage of core minerals produced by the U.S. or countries that have signed free trade agreements with Washington.
While the first stage of investment in Argentina was to produce both lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, the second stage of investment will focus on producing lithium carbonate and transporting it to South Korea. A plant that processes lithium carbonate into lithium hydroxide will be completed in the second half of 2025.
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