The Energy Transition Will Require Cobalt. America’s Only Mine Can’t Get Off the Ground. – by David Uberti and Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – July 22, 2023)

The U.S. is playing catch-up in battery supply chains dominated by China

Etched into a mountain in the Idaho wilderness, at an elevation of roughly 8,000 feet, a cobalt mine three decades in the making demonstrates how America’s clean-energy ambitions are clashing with market realities. Miners have spent years traveling the 42-mile dirt road to the site, pushing the project forward in fits and starts while confronting wildfire, permitting fights, market swings and a corporate takeover.

Those fortunes were finally supposed to turn this spring with the launch of what the project’s Australian owner billed as the only cobalt mine of its kind in the U.S. China dominates the processing of cobalt, a metal used in cellphones, jet engines, munitions, and, increasingly, electric-vehicle batteries.

Federal and state officials hailed the mine at a ribbon cutting in October, timed ahead of the winter, and a White House energy adviser later pointed to it as an example of America’s renewed mining aspirations.

But Jervois Global recently suspended operations and cut hundreds of workers just weeks before the mine was set to produce its first pound of cobalt. The market had shifted at a key moment, cratering prices for the lustrous silvery metal around the world.

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