LG Chem will establish a recycling and precursor joint venture with KEMCO, a subsidiary of Korea Zinc Co., Ltd., to strengthen its battery material value chain. Precursors in this application context are raw material for cathodes manufactured by combining nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminum, etc.; prescursors account for approximately 70% of cathode material costs.
With this joint venture, LG Chem will be able to receive a stable supply of high-quality nickel sulfate, while procuring recycling capacities, and KEMCO will procure a stable client in the domestic market as it expands its battery materials business portfolio.
KEMCO will hold 51% of the JV, LG Chem will hold 49%. The JV will be constructed as an exclusive line for NCMA (Nickel, Cobalt, Manganese, Aluminum) precursors that will be used for next-generation EV batteries, which LG Chem is focusing on in the Onsan Industrial Complex in Ulsan.
Plans are to invest more than 200 billion KRW (US$160 million) by 2024 to procure more than 20,000 tons of precursor production capacities annually. Construction is slated to begin in July of this year and mass production is expected to begin from Q2 of 2024 and will be supplied to the LG Chem Cheongju Cathode Materials Plant.
The joint venture will produce precursors using not only metals produced and supplied by KEMCO, but also recycled metals extracted from waste scrap and waste batteries.
In particular, the recycling process of the joint venture combines dry and wet processes to maximize metal recovery rate compared to existing processes. By adopting an eco-friendly process that recycles waste water in the extraction process and that can minimize discharge of harmful substances, plans are to respond preemptively to global environmental regulations that are becoming stricter as time passes.
KEMCO possesses one of the top capacities in the world with its nickel sulfate production capacity of 80,000 tons per year. Furthermore, based on the nonferrous metal smelting technologies of its parent company, Korea Zinc, it possesses expert technologies for extracting core raw materials for batteries such as nickel, cobalt, and manganese.