Matthew Kandrach is the president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.
The element cobalt isn’t something most people think of every day. And yet cobalt is critically important for the production of cell phones, wind turbines, and satellites. It’s also a key part of the lithium-ion battery — making it an essential resource for the emerging green revolution.
Right now, much of the world’s cobalt comes from one source — the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC produces roughly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt. Unfortunately, much of that mining is done by child labor, with revenues that often end up in the hands of autocratic rulers and warlords.
As global competition for resources like cobalt continues to grow, one country has moved quickly to dominate the field. Thanks to heavy investment in the DRC, China now owns much of the world’s cobalt production. In fact, China’s heavy investment in both copper and cobalt has given it a strong stake in global metal and mineral supplies.
Lithium is another element that’s integral to high-tech industries — everything from electric vehicle batteries and energy storage to aerospace and defense applications. Right now, three countries possess more than 75 percent of global lithium reserves: Chile, Argentina and Australia.
And once again, China has taken control. It owns 67 percent of Chile’s lithium output, 61 percent of Australia’s, and 41 percent of Argentina’s. China also owns all of Bolivia’s lithium reserves — which are believed to be the world’s largest.