China’s economy is growing and getting greener as it adopts emission standards that are among the strictest in the world. In 2018, Heraeus Precious Metals opened the world’s most advanced precious metals factory in Nanjing. This investment, at US$120 million, is the largest in Heraeus history, strengthening the company’s leading position in trading, recycling and processing precious metals in China, Asia, and the world.

Green Growth

Nanjing, eastern China, September 2018. The opening ceremony has just concluded. Festive red and gold still adorn the celebration grandstand. Linda Hu, commercial head for Heraeus Precious Metals China, stands next to a young, newly planted tree. “This factory is for our Chinese customers,” she explains. “Now we can offer solutions across the entire precious metals cycle—from recycling through processing to trading. In this way, we are promoting our customers’ growth.” The tree symbolizes this growth, emphasizing that it is green and sustainable.

The new Heraeus plant is part of the Nanjing Jiangbei New Material Science and Technology Park. Some of the world’s largest chemical and technology groups are represented here—and the industrial park is steadily growing. The companies are attracted by China’s thriving economy. For Heraeus as well, the new site is an investment in the future, because China ranks among the world’s largest consumers of platinum group metals. Key industry sectors, such as electronics, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, are demonstrating a significant and growing need for platinum group metals. In addition, China is positioning itself as a trailblazer in green growth. The government is promoting development of sustainable technologies and is banking on batteries and fuel cells for alternative drive systems. In addition, Beijing is currently adopting emission standards that are among the strictest in the world. This green strategy is increasing the demand for precious metals across all sectors of the economy. Precious metals are used in industrial exhaust catalysts and for diesel and gasoline engines, and they are basic elements of hydrogen technology.

Since China has little natural sources of platinum group metals itself, it must rely on imports and recycling. The recovery and recycling of precious metals, in particular, reduces imports from other countries over the long term, thereby making China’s economy less dependent on producing countries. “One key reason for our success is to create value on site”, says Jan Rinnert, Chairman of the Heraeus Holding Board of Management. “This is no different in China where we started our business about 45 years ago. Instead of exporting to China, nearly 85% of the value we create in China is developed and manufactured in the country.”

Pooling worldwide experience

Grüner Wachstum Source: Eastimages / Moment

An international team of experts worked very closely together in building the new factory. “We were able to bring together the best technologies and processes from all Heraeus locations and weave them together here in Nanjing,” explains Dr. Daniel Zhang, operations director of the new plant. Precious metals are recycled at the 84,000-square-meter site using both wet-chemical and pyrochemical reprocessing, then made into an extremely wide array of products for various industries.

“Long-term planning and sustainable development are essential for a family- owned company like Heraeus,” says Jan Rinnert. “With our sustainable products and services, we are supporting China’s national strategy and initiatives to bring the industrial value-added chain up to date and improve people’s lives.” For Heraeus, it was crucial to construct a factory according to the latest standards and with ultramodern technology.

The project team also relied on global Heraeus standards in regard to sustainability, environmental responsibility and occupational safety. China also has strict regulations in the areas of the environment and safety. “With our environmental, health and safety standards, we meet the strictest requirements of the national, regional and local authorities,” explains Daniel Zhang. “In some cases, we even exceed them.”

A preferred partner in China

It is planned to have 200 specialists working at the new site by the end of 2019. Their expertise provides Heraeus with significantly greater capacities in the recycling of precious metals. In addition, standardized processes ensure that the quality of the products remains high. For the customers, this is clearly an advantage, says Linda Hu: “The combination of very high-quality products and decades of experience in the Chinese market make us a preferred business partner for our customers in China.”

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