South Korean chemical firm LG Chem said on Friday that it had acquired a stake in U.S. mining company Piedmont Lithium Inc. for $75 million to secure raw materials needed for its manufacturing of electric-vehicle (EV) batteries. The equity investment provides LG Chem with a 6 percent stake in Piedmont, which holds a 25 percent ownership interest in the North American Lithium (NAL) mine in Quebec, Canada. LG Chem also signed an agreement with the U.S. mining company to receive 200,000 metric tonnes of high-purity lithium spodumene concentrate from NAL over a four-year period beginning from the third quarter of this year.
The deal makes LG Chem the first South Korean firm to secure lithium from North America. It expects to extract about 300,000 metric tonnes of lithium hydroxide from the spodumene concentrate supplied by NAL to produce batteries equivalent to the amount that goes into 500,000 EVs. LG Chem also obtained priority negotiation rights for 10,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year produced by Piedmont in the United States.
In addition, LG Chem made a strategic equity investment in Chinese mining company Tianqi Lithium, which owns a mine in Australia, for supply of lithium hydroxide monohydrate. The company said it aims to lead the battery material market “by building various partnerships, including joint metal investments with automotive [Original Equipment Manufacturers] and battery makers.”
LG Chem said last November that it will invest $3 billion to build battery cathode factory in Tennessee, months after the Biden administration signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on Aug. 16, 2022. The company said the new plant is slated to have an annual production capacity of 120,000 tonnes of cathode materials by 2027, enough to power about 1.2 million electric vehicles. LG Chem said it was also pursuing cooperation with mining firms and recycling companies to better support its customers so that requirements of the IRA can be met.
Japan and South Korea earlier called on the United States to ease restrictions on EV tax credits, citing the adverse impact of the IRA on foreign automakers. The new law directly impacted South Korean automakers Hyundai Motor and Kia Corp, as well as Japan’s Toyota, which immediately ended credits for about 70 percent of EVs that were previously eligible for subsidies. South Korea said that some provisions in the IRA may violate their Federal Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization rules, and requested a three-year grace period to allow South Korean companies with planned investments in the United States to continue receiving tax incentives.
At the G20 summit 2022, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol asked President Joe Biden to prevent discriminatory measures against South Korean companies, his office said. Biden replied that the implementation of the law should account for the contribution of South Korean investment in the U.S. economy.
Reuters contributed to this report.