South Korean electric vehicle (EV) battery raw materials supplier EcoPro said it had invested US$11m for a 9% stake in a nickel smelting factory in Indonesia to secure further supplies of a key battery cell raw material.

The plant, Green Eco Nickel, is on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and owned by Chinese battery materials producer Green Eco-Manufacture (GEM). The facility has capacity for 20,000 tonnes of nickel per year.

The investment would give EcoPro access to a percentage of refined nickel output equivalent to its stake.

EcoPro said it planned further investment in nickel processing companies in the country including increasing its stake in Green Eco Nickel.

EcoPro had previously invested $86m in a stake in another nickel refining facility also owned by GEM, in the Morowali Industrial Park in central Sulawesi. The QMB facility has capacity of 50,000 tonnes.

EcoPro would supply the nickel to battery materials affiliate EcoPro BM which has targeted 200,000 tonnes of battery precursor materials annually by 2027 and estimated it would need around 100,000 a year to achieve that target.

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It was building materials plants in Asia, US and Europe to supply battery cell manufacturers including SK On and Samsung SDI.

Harry Chang, head of EcoPro global resources development, said in a statement: “We aim to establish a stable materials supply chain through continuous investments in nickel smelters.”

Indonesia was estimated to have the world’s largest reserves of nickel and aimed to play a key role in the global EV supply chain.