South Korea to reduce dependence on other countries for key materials by 2030

South Korea plans to reduce its reliance on countries such as China when it comes to sourcing materials - including critical minerals such as graphite and rare earths - to avoid potential supply chain disruptions

The country’s Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy said it wants to reduce its dependence on specific countries to less than 50% for 185 items by 2030, down from 70% in 2022. The list includes semiconductors, secondary batteries and 29 ferrous and non-ferrous metals, among other things.

The move will help South Korea build a stabilized and robust industrial supply chain, industry minister Bang Moon-kyu said on Wednesday December 13, while visiting Posco’s Future M plant at Sejong, which is the country’s only production facility processing natural graphite for battery anodes.

The country depends on China for 94% of its natural graphite supplies, according to data from the ministry. Based on its official customs data, 86% of rare earth permanent magnets and 97% of precursors for ternary batteries were imported from China from January to October this year.

The country plans to build its own production facilities for nickelcobaltmanganese (NCM) precursors, while seeking foreign investment and encouraging local companies to relocate their overseas production facilities to South Korea.

South Korea expects to produce around 332,000 tonness of NCM precursors by 2028 and LG Chem starting construction of a $909 million NCM precursor production facility in the Saemageum Industrial Complex in southwest Seoul this year. 

South Korea also plans to increase its lithium and cobalt inventories to ensure it has 100 days of supplies by 2031 as part of its newly announced $29 billion financial package for the domestic battery materials industry.

The financial aid will also be used for investments in manufacturing production facilities in North America so that companies can benefit from measures implemented under the US Inflation Reduction Act.

The South Korean government also plans to establish new safety regulations on the removal, storage and transportation of used batteries within the country, while estimating that it could secure enough minerals available for an equivalent of 170,000 electric vehicles per year if it recycled all its used batteries

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