S. Korean steel giant POSCO set for future with lithium mining in Argentina

2022.12.21 14:20:01 | 2023.03.14 14:38:02

The Salar del Hombre Muerto salt lake in northern Argentina [Source : POSCO]이미지 확대

The Salar del Hombre Muerto salt lake in northern Argentina [Source : POSCO]

South Korean steel giant POSCO is preparing for future growth in Argentina, extracting lithium from a salt lake to produce the key material for batteries to meet demand from a rapidly-growing electric vehicle market.

POSCO is currently constructing a lithium hydroxide plant near the Salar del Hombre Muerto salt lake in northern Argentina, which will have an annual production capacity of 25,000 tons. The construction began in April this year and will be completed in the first half of 2024.

The annual output will be expanded to as much as 100,000 tons of lithium hydroxide power by 2030. The volume is the fourth largest in the world, based on this year‘s global output. In value, 100,000 tons are worth $8 billion as the battery material is traded at $80,000 per ton on average now.

POSCO bought the mining rights in the Salar del Hombre Muerto, a salt pan in northern Argentina, bordering Chile and Bolivia, for $280 million in August 2018. The region, covered with salt and other minerals, is known to contain 70 percent of the world’s lithium deposits.

Lithium extracted from salt water is considered more environmentally friendly than those extracted from ore, as is done in Australia, according to Oh Jae-hoon, head of lithium production team at POSCO Argentina. The company plans to use electricity generated from solar farms for refining process in the future to achieve net zero carbon emissions in production, added Oh.

By Seo Jin-woo and Cho Jeehyun

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