Cobalt: the backstory of a technology metal – by Robin Bromby ( – March 11, 2016)

It has certainly been cobalt’s week. John Petersen has authored two imposing posts (PT 1, PT 2). Now Christopher Ecclestone has underlined the worries that should be concerning Tesla and other end-users about the possibility that the supplies of lithium and cobalt on which they are depending for their lithium-ion batteries might just not be there when they put in their orders (and he cites the fact that London Metal Exchange warehouses have just 614 tonnes of cobalt in their care).

This is a very important story for InventorIntel given that cobalt is being seen increasingly as a technology metal and a “green” one, the latter reflecting its battery applications.

There is an additional consideration: the availability of cobalt for batteries is complicated by (a) the looming shortage of the metal and (b) the competing demand for it.

While projections for 2018 show that battery chemicals will require 49% of cobalt output, the metal is also needed for superalloys, hard metals, ceramics and pigments, catalysts, tyres and paint dryers, electroplating, animal feed, synthetic diamonds and other battery technologies (AlNiCo, SmCo, NdFeB).

However, apart the present and the future, there is also the past. As it looks certain that cobalt is going to figure prominently on InvestorIntel as the battery issue heats up, some backstory may be useful to readers. Technology metal now, strategic metal then.

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