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Friday, April 19, 2024

Posco to source 60,000 tons of graphite from Africa in pull away from China

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Posco Center in southern Seoul. [YONHAP]
Posco Center in southern Seoul. [YONHAP]

Posco Future M, a battery material affiliate of Posco Group, will source natural graphite, a key material for anodes, from Africa, in a deal that is expected to alleviate the company’s supply chain dependence on China.

Previously, Posco Future M has imported almost 100 percent of its natural graphite from China.

Australian mining company Syrah Resources announced Friday that it had signed a long-term supply contract with Posco Future M to provide the firm with natural graphite mined from Africa’s Mozambique Balama operation.

Posco Future M can import as many as 60,000 tons of natural graphite annually for six years, starting from 2025 at the latest. The transaction rate will be determined every quarter depending on market conditions.

Sixty-thousand tons of natural graphite translates to some 30,000 tons of anodes, which means that 40 percent of Posco Future M’s annual production of the devices will leverage the natural graphite.

Natural graphite is a key material that China is trying to weaponize by curbing its exports against the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a U.S. subsidy program aiming to bar battery materials sourced from China.

Posco Future M had been granted approval to import a certain type of graphite from China since the export curb took effect last year, but was not free from potential supply chain risks that could arise in the future.

“The supply chain for graphite should be diversified and develop silicon-based anode technology to lower supply chain risk,” the Korea International Trade Association sad in an October 2023 report. “In case the U.S.-China relationship deteriorates, export curbs could be imposed on Korean battery companies that have factories in the U.S.”

Korea imported $241 million worth of natural and synthetic graphite for anodes manufacturing in 2022, 93.7 percent of which was from China, according to Industry Ministry statistics.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]