South Korea’s POSCO has announced that it will cease production of magnesium metal and seek to find a buyer for its plant.
In 2012, the steelmaker started production from a 10ktpy modified Pidgeon process magnesium plant in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The company planned to expand capacity to 20ktpy by 2016 and 100ktpy by 2018. When the refinery reached full capacity, POSCO expected 70% of its production to be magnesium alloy. The international trade statistics show no evidence of a large increase in production and output probably never exceeded 10ktpy.
The Gangneung plant is thought to be relatively high cost and not profitable. It is one of only three thermal plants to have opened outside China over the last decade. The other two do not appear to have been much more successful. In Malaysia, CVM opened a 15ktpy plant in 2010 that appears to have produced only intermittently. In 2015, Esan Eczacibasi started production from a 15ktpy plant in Eskisehir, Turkey. Output in 2018 and 2019 was probably at about 30% of capacity.
It remains to be seen if POSCO is successful in selling its plant, particularly as the trend is now very clearly towards electrolytic and new technologies and away from traditional thermal processing, which is low-cost but highly polluting.
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