POSCO, a South Korean steel manufacturer, has elected to invest US$240 million in a 30 per cent stake in First Quantum Minerals’ Ravensthorpe nickel mine, in Western Australia.
First Quantum Minerals will retain the remaining 70 per cent interest and will continue as operator. POSCO’s long-term offtake agreement for 7,500 tonnes of nickel in mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide precipitate per year, starting in 2024, will help to underpin its secondary battery material business.
“Congratulations to First Quantum Minerals and POSCO on the announcement of their offtake agreement and strategic partnership,” Mines and Petroleum minister Bill Johnston said.
“Proactively engaging with global producers of battery minerals and materials is a priority for the Western Australian government and a key component of our Future Battery Industry Strategy.”
POSCO and First Quantum Minerals have entered a Memorandum of Understanding to explore producing materials such as nickel sulphate. This material is used to manufacture cathodes in lithium-ion batteries.
“We are committed to growing WA into a world-leading exporter of battery minerals, materials and technologies,” Johnston said.
“Our focus right now is attracting investment in the next step of the battery value chain – pre‑cursor cathode manufacturing.”
The decision builds on POSCO’s existing investments in the state’s battery minerals industry, including its offtake with Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora project.
Global demand for lithium-ion batteries is expected to increase tenfold by 2030, which will be primarily driven by an uptake in electric vehicles.
Plans are progressing in Western Australian and international companies to further process lithium and nickel locally, to produce lithium hydroxide and nickel sulphate.
The Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation is currently engaging with global precursor manufacturers within key markets on this potential investment opportunity.