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Future Focus on Solvent Extraction Technology from Intermediate Raw Materials--Interview with CoreMax, Taiwan, Vol. 2

10/25/2022 08:33 FREE

CoreMax (CoreMax Corporation) is the largest battery materials company in Taiwan and is located in the Hsinchu Industrial Park in Taiwan. We were able to interview the company at its headquarters this time. Eugene Ho, the company's president, spoke to us about the company's technological strengths and future prospects. Mr. Ho is the dupety CEO of CoreMax Group, which includes CoreMax, Heng I Chemical, and Uranus Chemicals. This article presents the second half of the interview.

 

→ First half:Annual Cobalt Processing Capacity: Approx. 2,000 Tons for the EV Era - Interview with CoreMax, Taiwan, Vol. 1

 

They would like to further enhance solvent extraction in the future.
According to Mr. Ho, "Currently, nickel sulfate is produced by dissolving ingots, but we would like to incorporate solvent extraction technology for nickel, taking advantage of our experience with cobalt. This will become very important in the future. Currently, 70% of our battery materials have been sold to Japan, followed by China, but it is likely that we will sell to Europe and Canada in the future. At present, nickel sulfate is the most common material we handle, but we plan to expand our sales of cobalt in the future." The company is also on track to establish overseas bases. The company has its sights set on an overseas base, and an announcement is expected to be made soon, with a concrete start next year.

 

 

A Closer Look at Taiwan's Battery Materials Industry's Tariff Issues with Japan - Interview with Mechema (美琪瑪) | MIRU (iru-miru.com)

 

CoreMax has also been affected by the zero tariffs imposed by South Korea, and the volume of transactions to Japan has been declining. While negotiating with government agencies, but they anticipate that a short-term solution will be difficult. One solution is to strengthen the cobalt business, and another is to adopt solvent extraction technology for nickel, which can be used as a raw material for intermediate materials. Regarding solvent extraction of nickel, if they are going to build a new production facility in the future, they are considering a third country where they will not be affected by tariffs. The reasons for investing overseas include, of course, the tariff issue, but also the rising cost of land and labor in Taiwan.
 
 
How do they plan to procure raw materials for a stable supply?
By enhancing solvent extraction, which is one of CoreMax's strengths, the company will be able to manufacture from a variety of intermediate raw materials. In other words, the range of procured raw materials will expand. If solvent extraction from nickel intermediate materials is realized, it will not only make raw material procurement easier and more cost-effective, but it will also be applicable to production from various black masses.
Nickel sulfate derived from metals is not very price competitive due to tariff issues. On top of that, Ho predicts that nickel ingots will be tight in the future, as the number of companies supplying nickel ingots is limited and there are no plans to increase production. Especially in terms of mines with Japanese capital, since Sumitomo Metal Mining no longer has investment in Indonesia, he believes that increasing intermediate raw materials will be effective for continuous procurement, and "I think that is where CoreMax has a role to play," Ho says. In Japan, it is difficult to process intermediate raw materials due to environmental regulations and other issues. Japanese companies procure intermediate raw materials, which are then processed by CoreMax into raw materials. If CoreMax can provide them back to Japanese companies, CoreMax will be able to support the EV era in Japan.
 
Currently, CoreMax uses metallic ingots for nickel and metallic ingots, intermediate materials, and black mass with high cobalt purity as raw materials for cobalt. For cobalt, the company purchases the most from Glencore. The company also purchases nickel and cobalt ingots and others from Sumitomo Corporation Group's Ambatovy project, and sometimes directly from LME warehouses. In terms of stable procurement of raw materials for stable sharing, the company is taking measures such as concluding long-term procurement contracts, such as for five years, with raw material manufacturers with whom it is currently doing business, based on guaranteed volume and price standards, because it is uncertain whether it will be able to procure raw materials from Chinese capital mines in Indonesia in the future.

 

 

Although they have considered investing in upstream mining, it is not realistic in terms of amount or scale, so they are focusing on expanding the range of raw materials by taking advantage of CoreMax's strengths in technology and deepening relationships with companies they already do business with.

 

 

Thoughts on Battery Scrap and Black Mass

It is obvious that the rapid growth of EVs will lead to a shortage of nickel mining resources. Furthermore, from a net-0 perspective, the range of available nickel will become even narrower. Therefore, in parallel with the use of intermediate raw materials, they are focusing on the use of black mass as a raw material.

 

Currently, CoreMax uses black mass with high cobalt purity as raw material, but the company aims to handle black mass with high nickel purity in the future. In the future, the company plans to grind and blackmass battery scrap in-house, and if it can work so, it will be able to create a closed loop with automakers and achieve a net zero.

 

The Toufen plant in Taiwan is processing blackmass with high cobalt purity, and the company is developing technology to use various types of blackmass, which will make CoreMax even more competitive. The process for making battery-grade feedstock is relatively close to that of black mass and mine intermediate feedstock, according to Ho. The company intends to extract nickel, cobalt, lithium, and other metals from various black masses and turn them into finished products. They also planned to start applying this technology next year.

 

Black mass is currently procured mainly from those with high cobalt purity and imported from Korea, Japan, India, and other countries. As for distribution, any material with high cobalt net content falls within the scope of "cobalt oxides. In order to be able to import various types of blackmass in the future, they are currently coordinating with Taiwanese government agencies, such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment, and once they are technically able to handle various types of blackmass, they are seeking ways to obtain government approval and import them. In addition to imports, the company is also procuring the material domestically in Taiwan.

 

When asked which is more cost-effective, intermediate raw material or black mass, as a raw materia,he said that it depends on the situation at the time. At present, he said, the impression is that it is 50-50 as to whether it will be cheaper to use black mass. Black mass is currently being fought over, and Mr.Ho predicts that it will be five or ten years before EV-derived black mass actually begins to be distributed, except in China. He believes that having the technology to process various types of black mass will be a major competitive advantage in the future.

 

At the end of the interview, we asked him about his message to the Japanese market and customers.

 

"Both Japan and Taiwan have one thing in common: they are both island countries and have no natural resources of their own. As friends, we hope to continue to build a cooperative relationship in various aspects, including raw material procurement. We will make raw materials in Taiwan as the first processing base and utilize them for manufacturing in Japan. In the coming EV era, let's develop together!"

 

Mr. Ho is scheduled to speak at the BatterySummit to be held on 1/30-31/2023. Please look forward to his presentation.

 

→ (Related site) BatterySummit2023 will be held at Hilton TOKYO | MIRU (iru-miru.com)

 

 

photo

 

 

The furniture in the conference room was imported from Japan by the chairman. It was a lovely place, with a view of greenery and the scent of wood in the air. Many gifts from Japan were also on display.

 

The building was completed two years ago on the site of the head office, and the second floor houses the offices of the general affairs department and other departments.

 


(IRUNIVERSE i.YUKO, translated by S. Aoyama)

 

 

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