Korea leveraging on US-led alliance to secure materials for batteries and high tech

2022.09.23 14:07:33 | 2022.09.23 14:25:15

[Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

[Photo by Yonhap]

The South Korean government and large conglomerates are leveraging on U.S.-initiated alliance to preemptively secure critical minerals like rare earth elements, lithium and cobalt that are essential components in building future technologies such as electric vehicles amid rapid clean technology transition.

A ministerial-level meeting of the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) convened in New York on Thursday (local time) with 11 MSP partner countries including South Korea and eight minerals-rich countries to discuss the supply chain of critical minerals and materials on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly.

“The South Korean government will actively contribute to the MSP which will play a key role in stabilizing and boosting investment in core mineral projects across the world,” said Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, who attended the meeting.

The 11 MSP partner countries other than South Korea and the U.S. are Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, and the eight minerals-rich countries in attendance were Argentina, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The MSP was launched in June to strengthen critical minerals’ supply chains essential for clean energy transition and is also seen as an initiative to decrease reliance on China, which is currently dominant in critical mineral supplies.

“To ensure that these technologies (electric vehicles and batteries, wind turbines, solar panels) can actually be deployed quickly, we know that we have to build resilient, diverse, and secure critical mineral supply chains by supporting more successful critical mineral projects,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the meeting.

The MSP is expected to help Korea diversify its critical minerals’ suppliers and mitigate concerns raised regarding the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that discriminates against vehicles made in Korea with materials from China.

[Photo provided by SK Group]이미지 확대

[Photo provided by SK Group]

According to SK on Friday, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won met separately with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema in New York to propose a public–private partnership for copper foil, one of the key materials used in lithium-ion battery cells for EVs.

“Zambia’s copper mines produce copper foil, a key material used in EV batteries, that can provide various opportunities for SK,” said Chey. SK can help Zambia in its transition to clean energy and enhance Zambia’s manufacturing capacity, added Chey.

SK Group is the parent of SK Nexilis, the world’s top copper foil maker.

Hichilema agreed on Chey’s proposal while hoping to continue detailed discussions between the two parties in the future.

If SK Group’s partnership with Zambia comes to fruition, the conglomerate will be gaining a secure supply of a key component of EV batteries amid the global supply chain crisis.

By Susan Lee

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