POSCO develops lithium extraction technology

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 23, 2012 - 18:30
  • Updated : Feb 23, 2012 - 23:09
POSCO said Thursday its affiliated research center had developed technology to directly extract lithium from seawater that reduced production time from a year to a month.

The Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology succeeded in producing high yields of lithium from salt water using the new technology, POSCO said in a press release. 
Luis Alberto Echazu (third from left), Bolivian minister of mining, is briefed on lithium extraction technology from a RIST staff member Thursday. (POSCO)

Lithium is a key material for rechargeable batteries used in mobile gadgets and electric cars. Korea imported 11,425 tons of lithium worth $53 million (about 60 billion won) last year.

Whereas natural evaporation had left other elements of the salt water in the form of impurities, the new technology allows separate extractions of lithium as well as other high-value added elements such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and boron.

POSCO filed for patents on about 30 related technologies at home and abroad.

Most lithium exists in seawater, but only in a handful of countries such as Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and China have water with a high lithium content.

Based on the new technology, POSCO plans to build lithium extraction plants overseas through cooperation with lithium producers that own the rights to the salt water.

Last year, POSCO bought stakes in companies that have lithium mining rights in Chile such as Li3 Energy of Peru and PALC of the United States.

By Kim So-hyun (