A consortium led by South Korea’s POSCO and Samsung SDI has won a bid to build a cathode materials plant in Chile. They will jointly invest about 54 million dollars in the plant, which will produce 3,200t of cathode a year starting by 2021.
The newly formed consortium also includes Chinese Sichuan Fulin Industrial Group and Chile’s Molyment. Leadership is with POSCO and Samsung SDI as they aim to deliver cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.
Lithium supply has been guaranteed by the Chilean government through CORFO, a Chilean governmental organisation which oversees the country’s lithium resource. It is not the only deal Corfo has cut or prohibited these last few days.
Samsung and Posco have been cooperating in Chile since last June, and will continue the partnership for expansion of the cathode production capacity. When to break ground for the cathode facility still has to be decided. The exact shares have yet to be released and a MoU will be signed officially later this month.
The consortium’s plant will be located in the northern city of Mejillones of Chile. About 3,200 tons of cathode materials, namely Nickel Cobalt Aluminum and Nickel Cobalt Manganese will be made there annually, starting in the second half of 2021.
The run for lithium has intensified these last months. Tesla too had turned to Chile. Talks with Chile’s largest lithium producer, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), are on going. They may result in the development of a processing plant (we reported).
Whereas neither SQM not Tesla would comment on the deal, Chile’s government has just asked antitrust regulators to block the sale of a stake in lithium company SQM to a Chinese company. Corfo, which oversees SQM’s lithium leases in the Salar de Atacama, claimed in its complaint that the purchase of a stake in SQM by “Tianqi Lithium, or any entity related to it directly or indirectly (including companies controlled by the government of China) would gravely distort market competition.”
On the other hand though, U.S. miner Albemarle Corp’s annual lithium production limit in the salt flats of the Salar de Atacama has been approved by Corfo. The increase, authorised by Corfo allows the company to produce as much as 140,000 tonnes of lithium per year, up from a range of 60,000 to 80,000 tonnes per year.