Korea Zinc to Expand Copper Output Amidst Renewable Energy Boom

Korea Zinc to Expand Copper Output Amidst Renewable Energy Boom

Korea Zinc, the world’s largest zinc smelter, plans to significantly boost its copper production, capitalizing on growth opportunities in the U.S. as it seeks to become a leading player in the global transition to renewable energy. The company aims to increase its copper output from around 30,000 tons in 2023 to 150,000 tons annually by 2028, according to chairman Yun Choi.

This production boost is part of Korea Zinc’s broader strategy to diversify into new growth areas such as battery metals, recycling, and renewables, while maintaining its established zinc refining operations. Copper, essential for building solar panels, power grids, and electric vehicles, is a key focus.

To reach its copper production goals, Korea Zinc plans to leverage scraps and waste materials through an “urban mining” approach, which involves recycling a city’s waste. “This is a much more profitable way of producing copper, and because it is 100% recycled, it happens to be a much more sustainable way to produce copper,” Choi explained.

The U.S. plays a crucial role in this plan due to its vast resources of secondary materials. Choi highlighted that developed cities are ideal for urban mining, making the U.S. a prime location for growth. Additionally, the U.S. has a lower recycling rate than Europe, presenting a significant opportunity for Korea Zinc. The focus on the U.S. market aligns with incentives provided by President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to boost EV manufacturing and reduce dependence on Chinese materials.

Korea Zinc currently operates several recycling facilities in the U.S., focusing on end-of-life materials such as electronics, auto parts, solar panels, and batteries. The company also extracts metals like copper, silver, nickel, cobalt, and lithium. In April, Korea Zinc acquired Kataman Metals, a scrap metal trading company.

Furthermore, Korea Zinc is constructing a nickel refinery in Korea, scheduled to begin operations in the first half of 2026. This 42,000 ton-per-year facility will be the largest non-Chinese nickel refinery in the world. Choi noted that the nickel produced will be for EVs and compliant with the Inflation Reduction Act.

By expanding its copper production and focusing on sustainable practices, Korea Zinc aims to strengthen its position in the renewable energy sector while leveraging growth opportunities in the U.S. market. icon

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