Cobalt: The Bass Player in the Tesla Band – by Peter Clausi ( – May 16, 2016)

Numbers are numbers and facts are facts: we make serious money when we figure out how those statistics could affect the future. For the past year, we’ve been haranguing about the global shortage of cobalt. We’re not alone in this. See John Petersen‘s series of beautifully analytical data-driven articles and Chris Ecclestone‘s thesis. The key facts you need to know:

1. roughly 97% of the world’s supply of cobalt is produced as a by-product of nickel or copper production. Fact;

2. the spot prices for copper and nickel have plummeted to and have stayed at levels that make many deposits uneconomic. Fact;

3. as a result of these economics, the owners of some of those copper and nickel mines are closing the mines, putting those mines on care and maintenance in a Hail Mary that someday the commodity price will recover enough to someday make these mines economic. Fact;

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Can Elon Musk reinvent the wheel with Tesla’s Model 3? – by David Olive (Toronto Star – May 14, 2016)

The excitement over the Model 3 has no equivalent since the anticipation of Lee Iacocca’s Mustang more than half a century ago. For weeks now, lineups several metres long have formed at the Tesla Motors Inc. kiosk at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. These are Tesla enthusiasts putting down a $1,000 (U.S.) deposit on an advance order for Tesla’s latest electric vehicle (EV), the Model 3.

The excitement over the Model 3, which holds the potential of making EVs a mass-market product for the first time, has no equivalent since the anticipation of Lee Iacocca’s Mustang more than half a century ago.

And the upfront cash from the faithful at Yorkdale and Tesla’s other sales outlets worldwide meant that when Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk took the wraps off three Model 3 prototypes at a convention centre last month, he already had $115 million in advance-order cash in his back pocket. By now, that figure is about $400 million.

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Tesla Battery Drive Lures China Molybdenum Into Cobalt – by Danielle Bochove (Bloomberg News – May 9, 2016)

China Molybdenum Co. is the latest company to bet on the future of electric cars with its plans to acquire cobalt assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Monday, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. agreed to sell its controlling stake in the Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine to CMOC, as the Luoyang, China-based company is known, for $2.65 billion. CMOC is also negotiating to buy Freeport’s interests in other cobalt assets.

The deal marks the Chinese company’s entry into cobalt, one of the specialty metals used in rechargeable batteries. The battery market is expanding as more consumers turn to electric cars made by companies such as Tesla Motors Inc. and look to store renewable energy to power appliances when there’s little wind or sunshine.

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Lithium-ion Batteries – The Cobalt Cliff Is Upon Us – by John Peterson ( – April 8, 2016)

I had a very enlightening conversation on Wednesday morning with the experts at Darton Commodities Limited, a U.K.-based metals trader that specializes in cobalt and serves as an intermediary between cobalt producers and European users. A couple days before the call, Darton sent me a copy of their 42 page “2015-2016 Cobalt Market Review.” It was one of the most impressive and data rich industry overviews I’ve ever seen.

Our wide ranging hour and a half conversation confirmed my developing thesis that cobalt is an immense supply chain risk that lithium-ion battery manufacturers and users have blithely dismissed in a headlong rush to build production capacity for markets that may not develop, or may develop more slowly than anyone anticipates. It left me more convinced than ever that my initial risk assessments were understated.

The Cobalt Cliff is upon us and there is no reasonable probability that the battery industry will have the muscle to outbid other essential industries that must have cobalt to make far more valuable products.

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Cobalt – A Coffin Nail for Cheap Lithium-ion Batteries – by John Peterson ( – April 1, 2016)

In early March, I was shocked to learn that only 6% of the world’s cobalt is produced as a primary mine product while 94% is produced as a by-product of nickel and copper mining. I found those ratios alarming because:

-Cobalt is an essential raw material in all high-energy lithium-ion batteries;

-While conservative analysts forecast that the battery industry’s cobalt requirements will double over the next 10 years, rapid and sustained growth in electric vehicles (EVs), stationary energy storage and other lithium-ion battery applications could drive that demand multiple much higher;

-By-product availability is always dependent on sales of the primary metal and miners cannot respond to increased demand for by-product metals that aren’t matched by increased demand for their primary products;

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Lithium-ion batteries can power African growth – by Prinesha Naidoo ( – March 17, 2016)

JOHANNESBURG – African mining companies stand to win big from the growing lithium-ion battery market, says Kenneth Ozoemena, chief scientist and research group leader at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

A key component of lithium-ion batteries are metal oxides which range from aluminium to cobalt, manganese, nickel and titanium.

Ozoemena told delegates at the 2016 Power & Electricity World Africa conference that Africa’s abundance of such natural resources could prove a boon not only for lithium miners but for associated raw material oxides as well.

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Surging Demand For Rechargeable Batteries Is Driving Business To South America – by Rosalba O’Brien and Rod Nickel (Huffington Post – March 15, 2016)

Lithium is an essential component of many consumer tech products.

SANTIAGO/TORONTO, March 15 (Reuters) – Far from the soy and cattle that dominate its vast fertile pampas, Argentina harbors another valuable commodity that is rocketing in price and demand and luring newly welcomed foreign investors.

Lithium, the so-called “white petroleum,” drives much of the modern world. It forms a small but essentially irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries, used in consumer devices like mobile phones and electric cars. It also has pharmaceutical and other applications.

Over half of the earth’s identified resources of the mineral are found in South America’s “lithium triangle,” an otherworldly landscape of high-altitude lakes and bright white salt flats that straddles Chile, Argentina and Bolivia.

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PDAC 2016: How lithium has become a rare winner amid the commodity slaughter – by Peter Koven (Financial Post – March 8, 2016)

The commodity slaughter of the last five years has left almost no metal unscathed. Almost.

There is a notable exception. Little-known lithium has been a solid performer for the last several years, and has simply skyrocketed in recent months due to expectations of soaring demand from electric vehicles and market distortions in China.

“You could argue it’s done better than anything,” said Jon Hykawy, president of Stormcrow Capital Ltd., which tracks the lithium market. That said, he noted the sky-high prices coming out of China don’t tell the whole story.

The lithium market is tiny in the grand scheme of things, with total demand of roughly 180,000 to 200,000 tonnes a year.

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Six yard battery-powered scoops head for Russia Batteries and lithium are King – by Norm Tollinsky (Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal – November 17, 2015)

RDH Mining Equipment builds on track record for innovation

RDH Mining Equipment, a manufacturer of underground mining equipment in Alban, Ontario, 50 kilometres south of Sudbury, has sold three battery-powered, six-yard load-haul-dump machines to a mine in Russia.

A global leader in the development of battery-powered underground mining equipment, RDH began manufacturing electric scoops in 2011 for Kirkland Lake Gold. Since then, it has sold the Ontario gold miner 12 battery-powered three-yard loaders and three haul trucks.

The three drivers for the mining industry’s interest in battery power are rising ventilation costs, heat issues and exposure to diesel particulate, which is now classified as a carcinogen, said RDH president Kevin Fitzsimmons.

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Battery power exec predicts diesel’s demise – by Walter Franczyk (Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal – November 17, 2015)

Mike Kasaba foresees the day when diesel no longer fuels underground mining. The chief executive officer of Artisan Vehicle Systems, a company that supplies battery-powered, electric powertrains for mining equipment, Kasaba predicts that within five years all new equipment purchases for underground mines will be zero emission and diesel equipment will be progressively phased out.

He delivered his forecast during a recent Toronto conference of the Mining Diesel Emissions Council. To prepare for diesel’s demise, his company recently opened a 60,000-square-foot battery development centre and production facility designed to boost production levels by 10 times, in Camarillo, California.

“The driving force behind the expansion is this opportunity and urgency in underground mining,” said Mark Dunseith, general manager of Artisan’s Canadian operations.

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Battery Boom Heats Lithium Gains as Outback Mining Stocks Soar – by David Stringer and Martin Ritchie (Bloomberg News – February 18, 2016)

The only things hotter than Western Australia’s scorched Outback are the mining companies preparing to supply the lithiumneeded by the likes of Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. to meet booming demand for electric cars.

Lithium is providing a rare bright spot for miners, amid cratering prices of raw materials tied to heavy industry such as iron ore to coal. The material, also used in tablet computers and power storage, promises gains from China’s shift to consumer-driven growth and global attempts to curb reliance on fossil fuels.

Prices of lithium carbonate — an industrial chemical used in lithium ion batteries — have surged 47 percent in 2016 from last year’s average, according to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Ltd.

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South Africa plans fuel cell plant to boost platinum demand – by Wendell Roelf (Reuters U.S. – February 9, 2016)

CAPE TOWN, Feb 9 South Africa plans to set up a fuel cell component plant by 2018, the latest initiative from the world’s top platinum producer to increase demand for the metal and support firms hit by plunging prices and labour strife.

The price of platinum has fallen about 30 percent year-on-year, forcing miners to sell assets and cut production and jobs. Around two-thirds of the industry, whose mines were damaged by a five-month strike in 2014, are making losses.

Vinay Somera, chief executive of Isondo Precious Metals, said his firm was preparing a feasibility study and had secured a licence from U.S-based Chemours Technology, to assemble components for the fuel cells using platinum.

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Electric cars, battery revolution power scramble for lithium – by Paul Garvey (The Australian – February 10, 2016)

The growing excitement around electric vehicles and home power storage is spilling over into the junior resources sector, with numerous players joining the hunt for lithium — the key ingredient in the new-generation batteries that are changing the way the world looks at energy.

While momentum has been building in the lithium space for some time amid the hype around Tesla, electric vehicles and other emerging lithium-ion battery applications, the value of the commodity has only recently started to surge.

Lithium carbonate prices have more than doubled in the past few months, climbing from $US7700 a tonne to more than $US16,000 a tonne. The surge comes despite the continued weakness in oil prices, which led some to question whether suddenly cheaper fuel could slow the rollout of electric vehicles.

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Hydro-Québec on a research quest for the ‘God Battery’ – by Bertrand Marotte (Globe and Mail – February 6, 2016)

VARENNES, QUE. — Karim Zaghib powers up a Chevy Volt electric hybrid for a tour of his domain: the energy storage and conversion facilities at Hydro-Québec’s sprawling two-square-kilometre research campus in Varennes, a Montreal exoburb on the South Shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Mr. Zaghib is Hydro-Québec’s point man on a high-stakes strategic mission to develop the superbattery of the future that will propel the much-vaunted all-electric car into the realm of commercial viability and consumer receptivity.

The veteran electro-chemist is a self-described idealist who dreams of spearheading the big technological breakthrough in electric-vehicle battery technology, committed to making a major contribution to a cleaner, more liveable planet.

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The Gates-backed Canadian building a better battery – by Alec Scott (Globe and Mail – June 23, 2015)

Donald Sadoway is the Mr. Chips, the Mr. Holland, the Miss Jean Brodie of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The elfin 65-year-old from Oshawa, Ontario, is the sort of teacher who alums discuss fondly at reunions. Remember the class on the chemistry of Champagne, when he wore a tuxedo and served flutes of bubbly?

Or how he blasted Handel’s Water Music at the start of the class on how hydrogen bonds with oxygen?

Sadoway has won almost every teaching award they have at MIT, some of them multiple times. But he also explodes that nasty old distinction between teachers and doers. He is an inventor with 19 patents, and he’s about to launch a battery that could change the world.

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