The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was the largest cobalt producer in 2019 responsible for over 70% of the world’s mine cobalt supplies.
Cobalt is the key metal of emerging green energy industry. According to the industry data, cobalt demand from nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) batteries used in EVs will increase from approximately 20,000 tonnes in 2019 to over 730,000 tonnes in 2040, a whopping 37x jump.
Mines and Metals notes that demand for cobalt in lithium ion batteries will dominate all other demand categories and some experts forecast a structural deficit within the next five years.
It is estimated that global mine cobalt production amounted to 140,000 tonnes, a 6% decline over 2018 year (148,000 tonnes).
With 100,000 tonnes of cobalt produced in 2019, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the world’s largest source of mined cobalt, supplying over 70% of world cobalt mine production. DRC was followed by Russia (6,100 tonnes) and Australia (5,100 tonnes).
Cobalt production declined in four countries (DRC, Papua New Guinea, Canada, New Caledonia), increased in two countries (Australia, South Africa) and remained virtually unchanged in other countries.
With the exception of production in Morocco and artisanally mined cobalt in DRC, most cobalt is mined as a byproduct of copper or nickel.
China was the world’s leading producer of refined cobalt, most of which it produced from partially refined cobalt imported from DRC.
China was the world’s leading consumer of cobalt, with more than 80% of its consumption being used by the rechargeable battery industry.
During the first 7 months of 2019, cobalt prices generally trended downward, which analysts attributed to oversupply and consumer destocking and deferral of purchases.
In early August, Glencore, a Switzerland-based producer and marketer of commodities announced that, owing to low cobalt prices, it planned to place its world-leading Mutanda cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo on care and maintenance status by year end 2019. Following the announcement, cobalt prices increased, then stabilized.
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