Australia cobalt rush accelerates on electric vehicle demand, DRC troubles – by Melanie Burton (Reuters Canada – December 15, 2017)

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia, home to the world’s second-biggest cobalt reserves, is seeing a rush of interest in projects still years from production as makers of batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs) seek supplies of the metal from a more costly but less risky source than top miner, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As auto makers seek to develop greener cars, shares in Clean TeQ CLQ.AX – owner of one of the largest cobalt deposits in Australia – have trebled this year. Minnows Cobalt Blue COB.AX, Australian Mines AUZ.AX, Artemis Resources ARV.AX and Aeon Metals AML.AX have also seen shares surge.

On Friday, Aeon, developing a copper-cobalt project in Queensland, raised A$30 million ($23 million) from institutional investors.

Investor interest has surged further since Amnesty International reported as much as a fifth of the DRC’s cobalt was artisanally mined in dangerous conditions, involving women and children. Giants like Toyota 7203.T and Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE pledged last month to uphold ethical standards in buying cobalt and other minerals needed for EVs.

“We have 10 (battery making) firms in discussions,” said Australian Mines Managing Director Benjamin Bell, citing advanced talks with firms from Germany, Japan, China and South Korea to secure offtake for its Queensland Sconi project.

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