Two German companies – the chemicals group BASF and the precious metal manufacturer and converter Heraeus – have started operating a new joint venture in China. Known as BASF Heraeus Metal Resource (BHMR), the joint venture operates a plant recovering precious metals from automotive catalytic converters in Pinghu, south of Shanghai. The plant, which employs more than 100 people, entailed an investment in the mid-eight-figure range, the firms said.
The partners announced that their subsidiaries BASF Environmental Catalyst and Metal Solutions (ECMS) and Heraeus Precious Metals each held a 50 per cent stake in BHMR. The joint venture had the capacity to recycle approximately 10,000 tonnes of automotive catalyst material each year using ECMS’s pyrometallurgy recycling technology.
Following 16 months of construction work, operations were now getting at a critical juncture as the first end-of-life vehicles (ELV) containing platinum group metals (PGM) entered the recycling phase. "The inception of BHMR represents a pivotal moment, not only for ECMS and Heraeus Precious Metals, but for the broader context of China's industrial and environmental roadmap, as it intends to enhance both the supply chain and ecological footprints within the industry,” BHMR’s General Manager, Nancy (Ying) Ren, remarked at the opening ceremony on 17 January.
In a joint press release, BASF and Heraeus underscored China’s heavy reliance on precious metal imports and the importance of recycling to meet the country’s demand, particularly for essential metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium. Market research predicted that the Chinese recycling market for automotive catalytic converters would experience "remarkable" growth, with an estimated annual growth rate of 18 per cent. "The establishment of the joint venture will not only help our customers to buy their precious metals from a sustainable and traceable source, but also contribute a stable supply for China's precious metals supply chain,” added Hu Min, Head of Heraeus Precious Metals China.
The joint venture is part of the Heraeus group’s €300m recycling expansion programme in China, the US and Germany. In 2022, the firm started expanding its recycling capacity in Tennessee and California. In spring 2023, Heraeus began work to expand the precious metal refinery at its headquarters in Hanau, Germany.