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Interview Report of Dunsuk, a secondary lead smelter in Korea,Ke

2018.02.19 09:49

On February 8 2018, just prior to the opening date of Pyeong Chang Olympic accompanied by Assoc. Prof. So Sasaki, Chuo University under coordination of Prof Yu Jeonsoo, Tohoku University I visited the Head Office of Dunsuk regarded as top ranked secondary lead smelter in Korea located at Shiwha Indusrial Park, Gyeonggi halfway from Seoul to Incheon to conduct a hearing survey on present circumstances around Korea’s lead battery recycle. This report contributes for a note of our survey.

 

Though recently export of used automotive battery from Japan to Korea has sharply increased, due to review of Basel Act compliance to lead battery export to Korea conducted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Ministry of Environment for various reasons, whether it is possible to export wasted battery to Korea from July this year onward becomes unclear, under which context our survey was conducted. Even so, the company welcomed our visit very favorably.

 

Unfortunately we did not have a chance to visit the company’s secondary lead smelt plant as it is located in Gunsan City, Juenbuk which is so distant from the head office we visited that it must take more than 4 hours drive but during the survey we got happily great deal of the company’s strength as well as outline of the management strategy.

 

It is in 1965 that the company was founded. With the background of original chemical industry business, the company presently runs multiple businesses including bio-diesel as well as additive(stabilizer) to PVC in parallel with lead smelting which impressed me for the company’s strength covering the risk hedge. Meanwhile the bio-diesel plant is adjacent with the head office we conducted interview. The plant is substantially automated which can be controlled in 24 hour operation by a limited number of operators. The PVC additive plant is also located in the same place with the head office where we were permitted to make a short factory tours over the two plants with an impression of fully cleaned facilities.

 

 

 History of Korea’s secondary lead smelt

It was told that the history of Korea’s recycled secondary lead battery smelt developed with Korea’s motorization evolution of which length can be thought as about 30 years. The time span from year of 2005 when Korea’s economy started to revive after IMF shock Korea managed to evacuate until Lehman Schock seemd to be the highest time for the industry.

 

Despite in this period many of small-medium companies upsurged into the industry, they might be able to keep strong sellers position due to international raw material market hike. The company regarded as No.1 ranked in Korea’s lead battery smelters ( with 20% or more share assumedly in Korea’s recycled lead smelt) participated comparably late as it built the plant in 2010 and ramped up in full scale operation in 2011, I heard.  They told that during this period still lead market in LEM was comparably favorable so that some new players other than the company participated in secondary lead battery smelt but at the same time, Environment Department the counter part of Environment Ministry conducted more restrict environment control.

 

 

Reorganization of Korea’s secondary lead smelters in advance

Presently the number of Korea’s secondary lead smelters has decreased to be 7 or so including the company from 17 in the highest days mainly because of excessive competition over intake which tells sharp industrial reorganization.(personally the company denied major effect by environment control. I assume it is true for the company but environment control may do so to the some players who withdrawn in the recent time.)

 

Import from Japan is attractive for the company as well as other players due to its geographical accessibility and foreseeable output but it seems that the industry import the material from United Sates/Mid-south America as well as UAE as long as economically favorable. But they told it must be a great loss if export from Japan geographically adjacent is interrupted.

 

As the company predicted the demand for lead battery henceforth, it is indicated that they are now under study of recycle of lithium ion-battery for future participation. But it is usually heard that recent lithium battery recycle is almost lack of economy quite different from Nickel-hydride battery and cobalt rich next generations. I would pay attention the company’s future evolutions.

 

 

 (Kenichi Togawa, Kumamoto University)

(Edited by IRUNIVERSE JP)

 

 

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