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SDI, Posco land Chile lithium bid

Mar 12,2018
A consortium comprising Samsung SDI and Posco was selected by the Chilean government to build a factory for cathode materials, one of the core components of electric car batteries, the companies said Sunday.

The consortium was one of three selected among 12 bidders from seven countries. In May, the Chilean government placed a bid offering a long-term supply of lithium at a low price to global companies that build manufacturing facilities there for value-added products that use lithium.

Chile has the largest lithium reserve in the world with a 50 percent share, and cathodes require large amounts of lithium.

The two Korean companies plan to invest 57.7 billion won ($54.2 million) in the cathode plant and establish a joint venture to oversee its operation. The facility will be located in the northern port city of Mejillones and have the capacity to produce 3,200 tons of cathodes annually. The expected start date is late 2021.

For Posco, the deal helps boost its image as a global cathode manufacturer. Its subsidiary Posco ESM has the capacity to manufacture 7,000 tons of cathodes per year.

For Samsung SDI, the Chile factory will ensure the company a long-term supply of lithium-filled cathodes that will go into its electric car batteries.

Securing lithium has become a competitive edge for companies in the electric car battery industry on the back of rosy prospects for the electric car industry. Lithium prices have doubled in the past two years, and the cathode market is expected to reach 860,000 tons in 2020, up fourfold from 210,000 tons in 2016.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]