Untangling the future of cobalt supply and demand

There has been a sharp rise in demand for cobalt in recent years, as the metal’s high-energy density has proven highly effective for the portable electronics industry, and now, the emerging electric vehicle (EV) industry.

cobalt drc batteries An understanding of the potential supply risks, and what demand for the metal will look like in years to come, is integral to those looking to enter or invest in the cobalt market. A number of companies are currently moving to secure long-term cobalt supply contracts, including Germany’s Volkswagen Group.

Produced as a by-product (or co-product) of nickel or copper, cobalt was added to the London Metal Exchange in mid 2010, leading to greater transparency and price stability in the cobalt market. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the dominant supplier of cobalt (50 to 60 per cent), with smaller deposits in Canada, China, Russia, Australia and Zambia.

It’s estimated that more than 40,000 children were working in artisanal mines across the DRC. In September 2017, the government of the DRC made a commitment to eliminate child labour in the mining sector by 2025.

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