LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – The increasing popularity of electric vehicles may create a crunch for supplies of cobalt in the early-to-mid 2020s, miners and analysts say, adding that small operators trying to start up mines outside Africa could play a bigger role over time in satisfying demand for the metal used in rechargeable batteries.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produces nearly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt as a by-product of its copper mines and is taking an increasingly confrontational stance toward foreign mining companies, including a new mining code that hikes royalties and taxes.
Human rights groups have said some cobalt from the Central African country could come from mines using child labor, raising additional concerns about sourcing within the industry and among buyers of the metal.
Cobalt is an important ingredient of current batteries and brokerage UBS described it in a report this week as “the commodity which could stall the exponential growth in electric vehicles.”
While supplies from Congo are expected to remain the most important factor in global supply for years, exploration and development companies at the 2018 Cobalt Institute conference in Las Vegas this week said potential buyers looking to lock in supplies were eager for projects in other countries.