A plant to make components for lithium-ion batteries is to be built in South Korea by Belgian company Umicore.
The high-tech recycler and specialist materials maker will double its capacity of the product as it expands into the market. The plant should be operational in 2014 to make parts for rechargeable batteries.
Lead supplies could fall into deficit for the first time in five years. Recycling of car batteries has stunted demand for raw resources but, with a growing market in Asia for electric bikes, industry demand for lead is rising.
The 2012 global lead market is set to record a surplus of 144,000 metric tons. The price has declined in recent years due to this surplus, with value falling from US$2 700/t to $1 900/t from last year.
Demand for electric bikes should reduce the surplus and push prices up, lead producers would welcome this as prices have fallen steadily since 2007 when it was valued at US$3 890/t on the London Metal Exchange.
With lead producing factories closing in China and environmental concerns hindering expansion, the demand for lead is outstripping supply.