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Chen Xuehua: Minor Metal, Big World
Chen Xuehua, born in 1961, is the Chairman of Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Co., Ltd. (Huayou), and Senior Economist, Vice Chairman of the Cobalt Branch of China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, Executive Member of the First Council of China International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector, and Honorary Doctor of Lubumbashi University, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was selected as one of the “Outstanding Chinese Environmental Protection Entrepreneurs”, “Advanced Individuals in Chinese Private Enterprise Culture Building”, “Outstanding Entrepreneurs of Small & Medium Enterprises of Zhejiang Province”, “Top 10 Outstanding Operators of Industrial Enterprise with Prominent Contribution of Jiaxiang City” and “Golden Phenix Entrepreneurs in Quzhou City”.
Dream for Power
At the beginning of the New Year, Chen Xuehua visited Quzhou Huayou Cobalt New Material Co., Ltd. and was delighted about its rapid development.
Chen started his own business as a bean sprout peddler. He had to sell bean sprout in the bazaar every day before dawn. He built a brand after 10 years in the business many buyers had preference for his bean sprout. His monthly salary was only a few yuan then, but he could manage to earn over 20 yuan in a single morning by selling bean sprout.
Selling bean sprouts was Chen Xuehua's first business. Every day before work, before dawn, he would pick his own bean sprouts and sell them in the market. This work lasted for 10 years. Chen Xuehua made a brand and many buyers designated his bean sprouts. At that time, the monthly salary was only a few yuan, and selling bean sprouts early in the morning could earn more than 20 yuan.
In 1993, the plant closed down. Chen decided to start his own business, but hundreds of thousands of yuan as the start-up capital was an astronomical figure to him, through painstaking efforts, the plant was established in 1994 with only a 100-square-meter bungalow and several iron pots with a diameter 0.8 meter as his only properties. At first, the plant extracted nickel oxide from pharmaceutical catalyst wastes, but he made his first money by outstanding production management and product quality.
Diligence and Globalization
“Be nothing or be the first.” Chen who even built brand for his bean sprout did not settle for nickel oxide products characterized by low cost and simple process, but took aim at a special metal-cobalt.
Cobalt is a minor metal, as well as applied as an important raw material for battery and aerospace sectors, among others. In 2002, Chen established Huayou Cobalt & Nickel Materials Co., Ltd., by relocating from the countryside to Tongxiang Economic Development Zone. That year the company introduced the technology of hydrometallurgy extraction to establish a domestic leading cobalt hydrometallurgy line. New technology and equipment boosted the development of the company whose sales topped 100 million yuan quickly.
Severely deficient in cobalt reserves, China relies on import for 90 percent of cobalt used by China. Africa’s cobalt reserves account for more than 50 percent of the world’s total workable cobalt reserves. The DRC has the richest cobalt resources in the world.
The intelligent have no doubts and the brave fear nothing. To solve the raw materials problem, Chen bridged gaps. In the first few years, he spent eight or nine months with his employees in Africa every year, and overcame all hardships with the pioneering spirit of Zhejiang entrepreneurs. In October 2007, Huayou’s first project in the DRC went into production. In 2008, Huayou CDM Electric Furnace Project (Phase I) went into production. Afterwards Huayou soared in project construction and business development. Now “upstream resources control” has become the core competitiveness of Huayou.
God rewards the diligent. Huayou overcame such many difficulties as materials shortage, cultural diversity, financial crisis, gained a foothold and take root in Africa, established an complete industrial chain for cobalt and copper mineral resources, and provided stable resources guarantee for its permanent development.
Responsibility and Cooperation
At least 30 Chinese companies have established their entities in the DRC, but few have sustained hardships. What is the secret to the success of Huayou still developing in Africa? “Wherever you invest, you must contribute to the local economy and society.” This is the endogenous power for the persistent growth of Huayou in Africa.
Huayou has been devoted to public welfare charity in the DRC, taken an active part in infrastructural construction, educational support and medical & health condition improvement, and invested a total of 10 million yuan. In 2011, Huayou established DRC Modern Agriculture Demonstration Park to teach local farmers in cultivating characteristic farm products by joining hands with Zhejiang University and the Lubumbashi University . In late 2016, the project was included an Africa-aiding Program by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Huayou engaged world-renowned professional institutions to provide management consultation service, and initiated the implementation of the cobalt supply chain responsibility management system as an important step in promoting the sustainability of the global cobalt industry. The DRC’s Mines Minister expressed appreciation for CDM’s efforts in improving the manually-mined cobalt supply chain and its achievements in cobalt supply chain responsibility management.
At the Release Ceremony of 2017 GoldenBee CSR China Honor Roll, Huayou was awarded as “GoldenBee Enterprise Award” once again following its last inclusion in 2010.
Investment in Quzhou, Transformation & Upgrading
Huayou has kept advancing with the times and forging ahead at any time. From cobalt use in chemical glass enamels and magnetic materials, to the extension to the carbide industry and rubber tire industry, the transformation to the consumer lithium battery materials industry, and the transformation to the new energy industry and new materials industry, each transformation following the change of the times has boosted the competitiveness of Huayou and brought it to a new level.
“As the social consumption structure and social needs are changing, we must center on customers rather than products. Whatever stage we are at, we should advance with the times.” This is the strongest support for the success of Huayou.
The rapid development of new energy vehicles, UAVs and robots, among others, especially the strong rise of the new energy vehicles industry, has fueled the demand of the downstream market for cobalt products. In 2012, Chen Xuehua chose Quzhou to fully establish a cobalt new materials advanced manufacturing base. Covering an area of over 700 mu, Quzhou Huayou Cobalt New Materials Co., Ltd. went into operation with an output value of 710 million yuan in 2014, and registered an output value of 2 billion yuan in 2015. Currently Huayou Quzhou Industry Park includes Quzhou Huayou, Huayou New Energy, Huajin New Energy, Resources Regeneration, Huahai New Energy and other companies. By late 2018, the Park had registered a cumulative industrial output value of 8.325 billion yuan. Only one enterprise creates the whole park, winning whole industry’s attention.
Though an industrial leader, Huayou has never slacked off. Chen always said, “Time waits for no man. The lithium battery new energy materials industry has developed more and more rapidly. When others are drinking coffee or at break, we must work overtime to gain more time and space.”