Australia to play a big role in South Korea's electric car battery push

Australia to play a big role in South Korea's electric car battery push

SYDNEY Reuters - Australia will play a big role in South Korea's ambition to lead the electric vehicle batteries market and diversify from China for its battery metals needs, a top South Korean executive said on Wednesday.

Ben Bosung Kim, the managing director for steel giant POSCO in Australia, said the company had already invested around A $5 billion $3.4 billion in the country, which covers traditional raw material such as iron ore and coal, and more recently lithium, nickel, graphite and other minerals needed to make electric car batteries.

Australia and Korea are always complementary and interdependent in terms of Australia's mining and Korea's manufacturing, according to Ben at the sidelines of the Australia-Korea Business Council AKBC conference in Sydney.

He said that it was like that in the past in terms of steelmaking, and it will be for the battery materials in the future.

The Asian country is a key supplier of electric vehicles in Korea, as it controls a third of the $46 billion market for electric vehicle batteries.

The U.S. allies have reduced their dependence on China in recent years due to concerns about Beijing's control over the critical minerals sector.

South Korea needs critical mineral supplies, and has pledged to become a battery manufacturing powerhouse by 2030 as part of a plan to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

POSCO entered into a joint venture deal with Pilbara Minerals Ltd last year to build a 43,000 tonne lithium hydroxide chemical facility in Gwangyang, South Korea. It also bought a 30% stake in the First Quantum Minerals Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Western Australia.

POSCO executives said that Australia is going to be a key target for the company for investment into hydrogen projects.

Juik Choo, POSCO Executive Vice President and Head of Hydrogen Business, said the company wants to become a global hydrogen supplier with capacity to produce 7 million tons by the year 2050. In Australia, a large-scale hydrogen production base is planned to be built that can deliver 1 million tons of hydrogen by the year 2040.

The Inflation Reduction Act IRA passed the Inflation Reduction Act IRA, which allows big incentives for hydrogen production, and the global race to be the first and largest provider of hydrogen is gaining speed, with the U.S. this year passing the Inflation Reduction Act IRA.

He said that the Australian government should give incentives so that the country can be a leader in global hydrogen exports.