Cobalt is used in Lithium ion nickel batteries as the cathode. Globally, 98% of cobalt is a byproduct of copper or nickel . In copper it’s 60% of that market. And in nickel’s case, it’s around 38%. Cobalt is essentially an accidental metal. New EV battery technologies do not use cobalt, but most mobile phones and consumer electronics still use cobal cathodes
Most cobalt (65%) comes from the Democratic Republic and has a dirty name for child labour. It is processed in China. Most battery product is sent to China for processing.
Junior Canadian companies include Edison Battery Metals (TSXV:EDDY), Fortune Minerals (TSX:FT), Battery Mineral Resources (TSXV:BMR), Jervois Global (TSXV:JRV), Sherritt International (TSX:S).
Australia’s 2020 Critical Minerals Projects list detailed around 68 cobalt projects, showcasing a promising pipeline for the material. One such project is Glencore’s Murrin Murrin nickel-cobalt mine in Western Australia, which experienced 14% year-on-year growth in cobalt output in 2020. The previous year, the site made up 66.7% of total Australian cobalt output, making it the country’s largest single cobalt producer. Another site is at Broken Hill.
Australia has 16% of the world’s cobalt resources but currently only produces around 5%. So why hasn’t Australia previously monopolised on this industry? One reason is that traditional methods are often too damaging and labour-intensive, requiring high temperatures and pressure that causes equipment to break down rapidly.
Operations often use 250°C to 300°C, and 50 atmospheres in terms of pressure to leach out the metal. These are also highly acidic conditions that create acid by-products, which you then have to store and dispose of. (More reading here)
Jervois (Finland, Idaho, Australia) is planning to be the biggest and only North American producer of cobalt and is due to come online in 2022
The market is busy. E.g. in 2019, ASX-listed cobalt play Jervois Mining was set to become the world’s third largest cobalt miner with the acquisition of Canada’s eCobalt Solutions Inc.There are new ventures to get the existing cobalt from copper and nickel miners, and currently there are takeovers and bidding wars by the 2 big iron ore miners FMG and BHP.
Listed Cobalt Miners
- ASX: NIS NickelSearch.
- ASX: KNI Kuniko Limited.
- ASX: CHN Chalice Mining.
- ASX: COB Cobalt Blue Holdings.
- ASX: AML Aeon Metals.
- ASX: PAN Panoramic Resources.
- ASX: ARL Ardea Resources.
- ASX: JRV Jervois Mining.
Source: Stockhead for a wider ranging discussion on cobalt stocks.