China battery recycler GEM to make disinfectants in virus epicenter

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s GEM Co Ltd, best known as a recycler of batteries for electric vehicles and producer of cobalt chemicals used in them, said on Sunday it had been given a four-month license to make disinfectant in coronavirus-hit Hubei province.

The surprise addition to the product portfolio of GEM, which has a factory in Jingmen in central Hubei, comes amid tight disinfectant supply after the virus outbreak that has killed more than 1,600 people in China, the company said in a Shenzhen Stock Exchange filing.

The government in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, last week pushed back the date for businesses in the province to resume work to Feb. 21 and reiterated on Sunday that firms could not restart without permission.

GEM’s license to produce liquid disinfectants in Jingmen, however, is valid from Feb. 15 to June 14 this year, the filing said.

The company, which buys cobalt hydroxide as a raw material from Glencore, had previously planned to resume work on Feb. 14. It was not immediately clear if it would be allowed to produce other products straightaway as well as disinfectants.

A survey of 16 Chinese cobalt smelters – excluding GEM’s Jingmen facility – by the cobalt branch of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association last week showed that six had not restarted production as of Feb. 12 after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, while two more were operating at less than 50%.

GEM, which bought around 21,000 tonnes of cobalt last year, has been unable to receive shipments at the port of Jingzhou in Hubei in the wake of the outbreak.

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