The vice chairman of non-iron metal smelting firm Korea Zinc is visiting Europe to secure battery materials, TheElec has learned.
Vice chairman Choi Yun-birm, who is also the third-generation heir to the company’s founder, has left for Geneva, Switzerland.
He will likely meet with executives of Vitol, Trafigura and Glencore to hold talks.
Battery business requires supplies of nickel, cobalt, copper and other raw materials.
Korea Zinc is planning to enter the precursors and copper foil businesses.
It is also preparing to form a joint venture with LG Chem for cathode precursors, and Choi’s visit is likely in preparation of this, sources said.
Precursors are needed to produce cathode, and high purity (over 99.8%, or Class A) nickel is needed to produce the precursors.
Nickel is made into nickel sulfate and this is mixed with lithium hydroxide to become cathode.
Korea Zinc will need to secure a steady supply line for Class A nickels to expand its precursor business.
However, high purity nickels are in high demand from the explosive growth of the electric vehicle market.
Automobile companies and battery cell companies are also investing in mining to secure these materials.
If Korea Zinc succeeds in securing supply of nickel, it will be able to grow its joint venture with LG Chem more efficiently.
In the long term, it could also recycle used batteries to secure more raw materials needed to make precursors.
Choi was promoted to vice chairman from president last year. He is the second son of honorary chairman Choi Chang-keul, who was the first son of company founder Choi Ki-ho.
Last year, Korea Zinc posted 7.58 trillion won in sales and 897.3 billion won in operating profit.