The South Korean cathode producer POSCO will through a joint venture with General Motors build a plant in Becanqua, Quebec, Canada. The plant will produce high-nickel cathode materials for GM's electric vehicle batteries, produced by Ultium Cells, another joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions.
The joint venture, which is majority-owned by POSCO, will invest 500M CAD ($400M) in the production facility which is set to be commissioned already in 2024. By 2022 the Korean company is aiming for a production capacity of 105,000 tonnes in its plants in China (in JV with Huayou Cobalt) and South Korea. In 2025 the target is 280,000 tonnes in 2025.
Meanwhile POSCO also broke ground of a new 100,000 tpa precursor plant in Gwangyang, South Korea in which the company invests 600 billion won ($487M). Today POSCO's precursor capacity is only 15,000 tonnes. The goal is a capacity of 185,000 tonnes by 2025. The new precursor plant will be co-located with the company's recently commissioned a 10,000 recycling plant at which it recycles production scrap from LG Energy Solutions' battery plants in a joint venture with Huyaou Cobalt. A lithium conversion plant has also been set up at the same site.
POSCO has also made investments further upstream by securing mines in Indonesia and salt lakes in Argentina, including production technology, enabling a production capacity of 220,000 tonnes lithium hydroxide and 140,000 tonnes for nickel by 2030.
General Motors has made moves to secure supply of critical materials for its batteries. In July 2021 the car maker announced it had signed an agreement with Controlled Thermal Resources Limited ("CTR") which could mean that a significant portion of GM's future battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate will come from CTR's Hell's Kitchen development in California. In January 2022 battery recycler Li-Cycle announced it will co-locate a pre-processing plant with Ultium Cells in Warren, Ohio, which will process production scrap from the Ultium's first cell manufacturing plant.
A missing link in the North American value chain is still a precursor plant which could process intermediaries to battery grade precursors. This is also where typical materials from recyclables, such as nickel and cobalt sulphates, enter the value chain.
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