COLUMN-Cobalt, Congo and a mass artisanal mining experiment – by Andy Home (Nasdaq/Reuters – May 13, 2021)

Cobalt epitomises the minerals conundrum at the heart of the green technology revolution.

It’s a key ingredient in the chemistry that powers electric vehicles and, along with other battery materials such as lithium, is facing a sustained demand surge as the world decarbonises.

But the world’s largest cobalt supplier is Democratic Republic of Congo, where up to a fifth of production is generated by artisanal miners working in squalid and dangerous conditions with little if any pricing power for their hard-won ore.

Automakers such as Tesla TSLA.O and Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE make no secret of their desire to reduce their usage of a metal with such a tainted supply chain. But it will take time and in the interim cobalt demand is forecast by trade house Trafigura to double between now and 2030.

To resolve cobalt’s conflicted dynamics, Congo is embarking on what will be the world’s largest mass experiment to try to formalise the artisanal and small-scale mining sector (ASM).

For the rest of this column: