Heraeus Precious Metals Technology (China) Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the Germany-based, family-owned international technology giant, opened its $120-million ultramodern precious metals plant at Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on Wednesday.
Billed as the world's most advanced precious metals factory, it is spread over 84,000 square meters at the Nanjing Jiangbei New Material Science and Technology Park, one of the top three chemical parks in China, 300 km northwest of Shanghai.
Precious metals are used in key industries in China, generating 1 trillion yuan ($144.5 billion) and providing 3.5 million jobs.
"The Nanjing site will allow us to combine Heraeus' global network with local talents, stay closer to our local customers, and better serve them with our global capabilities," said Jan Rinnert, Heraeus' global chairman and CEO.
Linda Hu, Heraeus Precious Metal China commercial head, agreed. "Heraeus will create more value for customers from the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, automobile, electronics and energy industries, and usher in the green development of the entire precious metals value chain (from trading through precious metals products to recycling)."
The largely automated plant, Heraeus' largest investment in China, will integrate precious metals recycling and new precious metals materials production, and is expected to command a 20 percent share of the China market by 2020.
Eventually, it will evolve into a smart factory providing value-added products with low energy consumption and emissions, company officials said.
The factory will increase Heraeus' recycling capacity of precious metals in China from 700 to 3,000 metric tons annually, and quadruple its annual capacity to process innovative materials.
China is the world's largest consumer of platinum group metals. It accounts for a quarter of global demand. The country, however, lacks such natural resources and depends on imports and recycling. Platinum group metals are used as emission and process catalysts for major industries.
The Nanjing plant's products will likely be sourced by both traditional and new materials industries such as chemical, automobile, electronics, glass, photovoltaics, pharmaceutical and ceramic decoration.
China is among Heraeus' top three markets worldwide, after Germany and the United States. "But it's not the sheer size, but the dynamic and development in China that are important," Rinnert said.
He attributed Heraeus' success in China to the country's reform and opening-up. Globalization, not tariff tensions, will help improve life, he said, referring to the ongoing China-US trade disputes.
"Over the past decades, we've been benefiting from globalization, and from opening-up here in China. I believe over the next few years and decades, the progress and the enhancement of quality of life for humankind will also depend on sustainable globalization," Rinnert said.
"Short-term trade tensions are not helpful in this regard. Such disputes aren't helpful because nobody can win."
China will see more and more innovation, and research and development activity, which will benefit the world, he said.
This is particularly true for areas and trends like photovoltaics, semi-conductors, mobile phones and digitalization. Heraeus will seek to be part of this phenomenon, he said.
"Many trends originate in China these days. The more we understand where China is heading, the better we can help our customers to fully exploit the business opportunities here."