KUCHING: South Korea-based Lotte Energy Materials Co Ltd is to invest an additional RM2.3bil to expand the production capacity of its copper foil plant in Samajaya Free Industrial Park here.
Lotte Energy acquired the copper foil manufacturing facility from ILJIN Materials Co Ltd, which has invested about RM3bil in the plant that commenced operations about four years ago.
Copper foil is a high-grade industrial material used in all electronic and lithium batteries.
Lotte Energy chief executive officer Kim Yeon Seop briefed Sarawak Deputy Premier and International Trade, Industry and Investment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan on the company’s new investment and expansion plan for the copper foil plant during a recent meeting in Seoul.
Awang Tengah, who was leading a delegation to meet with top executives of several major South Korean investors in Sarawak, had also held discussions with OCI Co Ltd, which has committed to invest a further RM2.8bil to expand its polysilicon plant in Samalaju Industrial Park, Bintulu, within the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).
OCI will team up with Japan’s Tokuyama Corp in a joint venture (JV) to invest in an electronic-grade polysilicon semi-finished product plant.
The JV is expected to be established in the first half of 2024 (1H24) and the new 11,000-tonne plant is scheduled to be completed and commence production in 1H26.
Polysilicon is used as the raw material for the solar photovoltaic and electronic industry.
OCI, via its wholly-owned unit OCIM Sdn Bhd, acquired from Tokuyama two manufacturing plants that produced semiconductors and solar-grade polysilicon in 2017.
Since then, OCIM has expanded the production capacity and has invested over RM8bil in total in the plants.
Awang Tengah expressed his gratitude to Lotte Energy for its confidence in Sarawak and continued investment to expand its operations.
According to the Deputy Premier, another South Korean electronic component manufacturing firm, lLJIN Display Co Ltd, is eager to invest in a manufacturing plant in Sarawak to produce LED sapphire wafers for high-end consumer electronics.
An affiliate of ILJIN Group, ILJIN Display, specialises in manufacturing IT touch panels and LED sapphire.
Awang Tengah said ILJIN Display sapphire division director Jang Heehyuk had told him during a briefing that the company’s planned investment in the manufacturing facility in Sarawak is estimated to be about RM440mil.
Established in 2002, the ILJIN Display sapphire division is expected to grow steadily as sapphire wafers are applied not only to LED for mobile devices, LED TVs and lighting devices but also to various other applications such as cover glasses, wearable glasses and micro-LEDs in mobile products.
In a separate meeting with top executives of SK Earthon (a subsidiary of South Korea’s SK Innovation Co Ltd), Awang Tengah invited the energy and chemical company to study the potential for midstream and downstream investment in Sarawak’s oil and gas (O&G) industry.
He said the company can leverage on Sarawak’s abundant hydropower and gas reserves as well as carbon storage prospects.
SK Earthon has teamed up with Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros) in the SK427 O&G exploration offshore Sarawak.
“This is a cornerstone for SK Earthon in growing further investment opportunities in onshore exploration and production, and on carbon capture, utilisation and storage initiatives.
“SK Earthon is enthusiastic in the new opportunities promoted by the Sarawak government and will explore and evaluate the possibilities to invest in Sarawak not only in the O&G activities but also in other areas such as manufacturing,” added Awang Tengah in a statement after meeting the company’s president and CEO Seong Myeong.
SK Innovation and its subsidiaries entered the resource exploration business some four decades ago and they currently operate projects in 11 blocks and run four liquified natural gas projects in eight countries, producing 51,000 barrels equivalent of O&G daily.
According to Awang Tengah, Sarawak has become a preferred investment destination for many South Korean companies, adding that the state welcomes foreign direct investments in high-tech and high-value projects.
This, he said, is also in line with Sarawak’s Post-Covid Development Strategy 2030 that promotes economic prosperity, social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.
Three other South Korea-based industrial giants – Samsung Engineering, Lotte Chemical and Posco – have joined hands to develop the Sarawak H2biscus green hydrogen/ammonia project in Bintulu.
The project is to convert hydropower and natural gas to green hydrogen methanol and blue hydrogen, and for the conversion of hydrogen to ammonia, with the focus of supplying hydrogen and ammonia to South Korea and Sarawak.
Samsung Engineering is also currently executing the mega Sarawak Petchem methanol plant project in Bintulu. The plant is due to commence operations later this year with an annual capacity of 1.7 million tonnes.