Growth through Sustainability is a journey

November 09, 2023 | 09:34
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Masan High-Tech Materials, a Vietnamese company ranked third in the world for tungsten powders and tungsten carbide, is now planning to build a tungsten recycling plant in Thai Nguyen, with the ambition of making Vietnam the hub of tungsten innovation and sustainability in Asia. This is part of Masan High-Tech Material's Growth through Sustainability strategy, which is underpinned by the belief that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. CEO Craig Bradshaw spoke with VIR’s Bich Ngoc about this approach and its further developments.
Masan High-Tech Materials implements 'Growth through Sustainability'
Craig Bradshaw, CEO of Masan High-Tech Materials

Sustainability is now considered by many as a values-based transition, as opposed to a destination. What does sustainability mean to Masan High-Tech Materials (MHT)?

The core goal for MHT is to be sustainable in the long term and develop solutions for critical and strategic industries, ensuring stability for thousands of our employees globally.

Tungsten, fluorite, copper, and bismuth are now all classified as strategically critical industrial minerals by the governments in the US, Japan, South Korea, and Germany. Therefore, we want to build our industry and ensure a long-term supply from outside of China. Our products are vital in many core applications, such as telecommunications, renewable energy, defence, oil and gas, and supercomputers, among many others.

How has MHT implemented the Growth through Sustainability strategy in its business operations?

When it comes to sustainability, we’d start with the question, "How can our company contribute towards positive change in the world?" Our Growth through Sustainability strategy requires us to pivot from mining new materials to recycling more to cater for mineral needs worldwide. This is one of our core strengths at MHT, as we acquired the world leader in tungsten recycling technology, H.C. Starck, in Germany in 2020.

Sustainability for us means collecting urban waste and turning it into new products for reuse. With the capabilities we've acquired through the over-100-year-old H.C. Starck, we have a unique opportunity to transfer the knowledge, patents, and technology from the operations in Germany to Vietnam, China, Canada, and other countries where we have manufacturing capabilities. As Vietnam is at the centre of tungsten manufacturing in Asia, we are taking the first step to transfer the required knowledge and technology here.

With the technology and experience in hand, we are confident that we have the power to make a difference. MHT will not only be a pioneer in tungsten recycling in Vietnam, it will also establish a leadership position in the region’s recycling space. In addition to recycling scrap materials into new products, particularly tungsten, cobalt, and other metals, MHT will also be able to recycle other materials that come with tungsten scrap, such as battery materials, cobalt, lithium, nickel, and copper.

Growth through Sustainability is a journey
The prime minister and senior government officials visited Masan High-Tech Materials' booth at the Vietnam International Innovation Expo 2023 that took place in Hanoi from October 28 to November 1

The tungsten scrap recycling plant project will come with the promise of manufacturing more from recycled materials and making Vietnam the regional hub for tungsten recycling. Do you foresee any challenges in realising this plan?

We are very much energised by the possibility of changing the global advanced materials market. The recycling activities will allow for continuous innovation and improvements, contributing to the sector's growth and long-lasting dual impacts, benefiting both our customers and the environment.

Although we already have the technology for recycling, the challenge for us is to educate different regulators and ensure the legislation will allow us to transfer and use that technology to set up a recycling centre. We're currently working with the government to amend the current law to enable the import of tungsten scrap.

Previously, Vietnam enforced legislation on the importation of copper and steel scrap because there is an industry that can recycle them. Therefore, there is certain scrap that is currently legal. To enable tungsten recycling in Vietnam, we have to take the government through the same process for tungsten, demonstrating that we've got the technology, and on the back of that, we can actually set up the industry.

We have a safe process that we can replicate from our facility in Germany and apply it in Vietnam. This process is world-class and environmentally sustainable. We will recover 100 per cent of the tungsten-containing material, so it can be repurposed into finished products.

There is scrap in Asia, from India, Indonesia, and Japan, that is sent to the US or Europe for recycling. Much of it is then shipped back to Asia, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it all here in Vietnam.

2023 has witnessed a weakening global economy and difficulties for Vietnam’s export sector. How does MHT manage to remain one of the world's leading suppliers of advanced tungsten materials?

The high inflation pressure brought by the aftermath of the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war is affecting consumer spending around the world. This impacts our business as we are seeing a downward trend in most of our markets except China.

Interestingly, our China operations (a subsidiary of our member firm H.C. Starck) are at maximum capacity. We have maintained and even increased our market share in the current market.

Many semiconductor and chip manufacturers are moving their supply from Chinese to non-Chinese sources. As we produce tungsten and fluorite that goes into making semiconductors and computer chips, customers are now looking to companies like us to supply more volume into those spaces.

We have many eco-conscious customers who want to increase the volume of recycled elements in their finished products because it means a lower carbon footprint thanks to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States and the EU have laws requiring a specific percentage of new products to be made from recycled materials. Finding partners with recycling abilities such as Masan High-Tech Materials is now essential for businesses wishing to sell products to such markets.

Masan High-Tech Materials will continue to invest in research, development, and innovation, obtaining international certifications for our unique and eco-friendly product applications that contribute to a more sustainable and better world.

Growth through Sustainability is a journey
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