SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) — POSCO plans to begin producing lithium in a salt lake in Argentina in 2023, a company official said Thursday, as the world’s fifth-largest steelmaker has been aggressively moving to secure the key metal for electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
Last year, POSCO completed its demo plant near the Salar del Hombre Muerto salt lake in northern Argentina for lithium extraction.
The steelmaker is set to build a plant this year that will have an annual production capacity of 68,000 tons of lithium.
“We plan to begin producing lithium” in the salt lake in 2023, the company official said Wednesday. He asked not to be identified and did not give any further details.
POSCO bought lithium mining rights in Argentina from Australian lithium miner Galaxy Resources for US$280 million in 2018. Currently, the steelmaker has mining rights for an area of 22,800 hectares in the region.
The site is confirmed to contain 13.5 million tons of lithium reserves, which is enough to make batteries for about 370 million electric cars, according to POSCO.
Initially, POSCO estimated that the site has 2.2 million tons of lithium reserves.
The EV battery market has been on a roll as automakers around the world race to go electric and eco-friendly due to tightened regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say are to blame for global warming.
In December, POSCO agreed to buy a 15 percent stake in Black Rock Mining, an Australia-based graphite producer, for $7.5 million.
The deal will pave the way for POSCO to secure graphite fines, a material required to make anodes, according to the steelmaker.
An anode is a key material in a battery that preserves lithium coming from the cathode and generates electricity while releasing lithium.
A cathode is one source of lithium in a lithium-ion