Posco Future, a South Korean battery material and chemical company, is set to import graphite from Africa in a bid to lower its reliance on Chinese supplies, Bloomberg reported.

The decision follows China’s tightening of export rules for graphite in December, which significantly impacted Korean battery manufacturers dependent on these materials.

POSCO Future CEO Kim Jun-hyung was quoted by the news agency as saying: “Graphite is the most troubling part when making batteries.

“We are importing 100% of natural graphite from China, but we are planning to bring natural graphite from Africa, such as Madagascar, and process it in South Korea.”

South Korea’s heavy dependence on China for graphite was evident last year, with 93% of its natural graphite and 95% of its synthetic graphite being imported from the country, according to customs data.

Posco Future’s shift towards African graphite is also aligned with the US Inflation Reduction Act’s push for carmakers to decrease their dependence on Chinese components.

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Posco Future has been producing synthetic graphite from needle cokes, a byproduct of steel manufacturing, since February and is looking to increase this investment.

The company’s expansion into African graphite was further cemented by Posco International’s memorandum of understanding with NextSource Materials to co-invest in a graphite mine in Madagascar, signed in August 2023.

To cater to the growing demand for high-performance batteries, Posco Future is constructing a new plant in Gwangyang.

This facility is expected to produce 52,500 tonnes (t) of nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) cathode, supplementing its existing capacity of 155,000t of various cathode types.

The entire NCA cathode output from the new plant is earmarked for supply to Samsung SDI, the battery provider for BMW and Rivian Automotive.