Archive | Cobalt, Critical, Strategic and Rare Earth Minerals and Metals

Battery Boom Revives World War II Cobalt Mines – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – August 14, 2018)

The giant rocky outcrop known by locals as La Cobaltera offers a glimpse into northern Chile’s mining past, and a hint of its future.

Slag from an ancient furnace is piled at the entrance of a mine shaft that hasn’t seen commercial activity since World War II. Inside, eucalyptus posts still support narrow tunnels, placed there by German engineers as a kind of alarm system: when they creaked it was a sign the tunnel might collapse.

Now the global hunt for cobalt, a key commodity in the electric-vehicle revolution, is rousing the sleepy community on the edge of Chile’s northern desert. Trucks are bouncing down the meandering dirt road from Freirina, carrying modern mining equipment to La Cobaltera. Continue Reading →

China Takes Control of Cobalt Mines as It Advances Its Battery Industry for Electric Vehicles – by Frank Fang (Epoch Times – August 14, 2018)

A new source of energy can be found at the forefront of electric-vehicle development in the 21st century, and China is beginning to dominate in controlling the world’s supply of this so-called new petroleum: the mineral cobalt. Cobalt is one of the key components of the lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles (EVs).

While Japanese electric carmakers are struggling to acquire the mineral and called for government assistance during a July 24 industry meeting in Tokyo, Chinese companies have been able to control one of the world’s key sources: mines in the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is one of the world’s poorest countries.

More than half of the world’s cobalt originates from Congo, and China’s control of the cobalt industry is as if it “had total control over oil fields in the Middle East,” an unidentified official with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry told Nikkei. Continue Reading →

Murky waters: Deep-sea miners say they offer a clean, ethical way to harvest precious metals for a low-carbon future. Environmentalists aren’t convinced. – by Janet Davison (CBC News – August 5, 2018)

They don’t look like much at first, the black, potato-shaped blobs that lie scattered on the seabed, deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. But as is so often the case, looks can be deceiving.

These nodules, and the metals that lie within them, are at the heart of a new and potentially lucrative mining frontier.

Metals like cobalt, copper, nickel and manganese have been mined on land for years, but going deep into the ocean to find them is becoming an increasingly tantalizing prospect. Companies like DeepGreen Metals and Nautilus Minerals — both with Canadian ties — have invested millions in preparation to raise the minerals from the seabed.

The metals in question are found in three sources: those potato-sized nodules; seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits around hydrothermal vents; and cobalt-rich crusts near underwater mountains. Continue Reading →

How U.S. tariffs on China minerals could hurt industry, consumers – by Tom Daly (Reuters U.S. – July 31, 2018)

BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods threaten a niche trade in minor metals and rare earths used in everything from stomach remedies and jet engines to consumer electronics.

More than 6,000 items have been earmarked for a 10 percent import tariff, including – in some form – 32 of the 35 minerals the United States in May designated as “critical” to its economic and national security.

These minerals and products based on them accounted for well over $1 billion of U.S. imports from China in 2017, and traders warn U.S. consumers will end up paying a premium if tariffs are put in place, albeit one cushioned by the recent devaluation of the yuan. Continue Reading →

The cobalt blues: A rival closes in on Vancouver’s eCobalt amid delays and shareholder backlash – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – July 31, 2018)

The more cobalt prices rise, the more pressure companies with cobalt projects face. On Monday, Vancouver-based eCobalt Solutions Inc. found itself under siege from Australian rival Jervois Mining Ltd, which announced it has acquired 4.7 per cent of its shares — the potential rumblings of a hostile take over.

The announcement comes two days after Australian hedge fund Tribeca Investment Partners sent a stern letter to eCobalt’s board, rebuking its management for “unnecessary” delays and mistakes as it seeks to build a cobalt mine in Idaho.

The letter, obtained by the Financial Post from an industry insider, highlights the eCobalt’s struggling stock price, calling for a sale of the company and a change in management. Continue Reading →

Glencore Sees Big Jump in Cobalt Supply From Congo Mines – by Thomas Biesheuvel (Bloomberg News – July 31, 2018)

Glencore Plc increased cobalt production by almost a third after restarting output at its Katanga unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Swiss commodity giant is seeking to double its production of cobalt in the next two years, tightening its grip on the market for the key battery material in electric vehicles. First-half cobalt output jumped 31 percent to 16,700 tons, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

While Glencore is cashing in on higher cobalt and copper demand, it also must confront serious challenges this year. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a corruption probe into operations in Congo, Nigeria and Venezuela, and it’s facing higher taxes and tougher regulation in Congo. Continue Reading →

Cobalt27’s Anthony Milewski discusses Vale transaction, cobalt outlook – by Trish Saywell (Northern Miner – July 3, 2018)

Cobalt27 Capital (TSXV: KBLT) recently acquired a US$300-million cobalt stream on Vale’s (NYSE: VALE) Voisey’s Bay nickel-copper-cobalt mine, beginning in 2021. It also has a stream on the Ramu nickel-cobalt mine in Papua New Guinea owned by the Metallurgical Corp. of China, and a net smelter return royalty (NSR) on the construction-ready Dumont nickel-cobalt project owned by RNC Minerals (TSX: RNX) in Quebec.

In total the company has 12 streams and royalties, as well as physical cobalt. In the last five months alone the company has increased its physical stock of cobalt by 800 tonnes to 3,000 tonnes. The Northern Miner recently spoke with Cobalt27’s chairman and CEO, Anthony Milewski, about the company’s investments and his outlook for nickel and cobalt in the emerging electric vehicle (EV) revolution.

The Northern Miner: You have just completed a $300-million equity raise to pay for the cobalt stream in your portfolio from Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador. Continue Reading →

Japan takes steps to ensure stable cobalt supply for automakers – by Yuka Obayashi (Reuters U.K. – July 24, 2018)

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s automakers aim to set up a joint procurement body by end-March to secure stable supplies of cobalt, a key component of lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, the country’s industry ministry said on Tuesday.

The move comes as global carmakers race to lock in battery supplies and move away from traditional combustion engines, and as China locks down supply chains to secure its own fast-growing battery sector.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry unveiled the plan at a committee set up by the ministry to map out the country’s plans for the auto industry, which includes Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) and Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T). The ministry and automakers will discuss details of the new organisation which is designed to help battery users secure long-term supplies of cobalt and buy clean materials with no issue of conflict minerals or child labour, it said. Continue Reading →

Vanadium is the latest beneficiary of the battery craze (The Economist – July 21, 2018)

A metal used to harden steel could also help prevent global warming

OPEN a toolbox, pull out a spanner and you may be holding a bit of the answer to global warming: vanadium, a metal named after Vanadis, the Scandinavian goddess of beauty. Used mostly in alloys to strengthen steel, its appearance may not live up to the romance of its name. Yet vanadium could become a vital ingredient in large clean-energy batteries, in which case it will shine a lot brighter.

Its price has already been rising faster than cobalt, copper and nickel, all of which are used in lithium-ion batteries (see chart). The main reason for the run-up is prosaic. About nine-tenths of the world’s vanadium is used to harden steel; China has tightened standards on the strength of rebar to make buildings more earthquake-proof.

Mark Smith, boss of Largo Resources, which mines high-purity vanadium in Brazil, says this alone should increase demand for the metal by up to 15,000 tonnes in 2018-19. Last year total production was 83,000 tonnes. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Tesla’s battery maker suspends cobalt supplier amid sanctions concern – by Pratima Desai and Makiko Yamazaki (Reuters U.S. – July 19, 2018)

LONDON/TOKYO (Reuters) – Panasonic Corp (6752.T) said it was unable to determine how much of the cobalt used in batteries it makes for Tesla cars comes from Cuba, a country subject to U.S. sanctions, and that it had suspended relations with a Canadian supplier as a result of its concerns.

The Japanese electronics maker, the exclusive supplier of batteries to Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), made the comments following questions from Reuters about whether the batteries contained Cuban cobalt.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that some of the cobalt that Panasonic uses to make Tesla’s batteries is mined in Cuba by Canadian supplier Sherritt International Corp (S.TO). Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Tariffs lay bare Washington’s rare earths dilemma – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – July 19, 2018)

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – The United States Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is aiming to buy 10 tonnes of yttrium oxide this year. Yttrium is one of the rare earth metals that have become increasingly critical to a wide spectrum of modern-day products. It is used in radars, lasers, camera lenses and super-conductors.

It is also about to become more expensive if the United States makes good on its threat to impose more tariffs on China because, to quote the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “nearly all imports of yttrium metal and compounds are derived from mineral concentrates produced in China.”

The same applies to many of the other metals on the DLA’s procurement plans for the year, particularly the 416 tonnes of other non-specific “rare earths”. Continue Reading →

Fortune Minerals considers putting Saskatoon-area refinery plans on ice – by David Shield (CBC News Saskatoon – July 18, 2018)

Mining company says businesses are talking about buying ore concentrate straight from proposed mine in N.W.T.

Plans for a controversial refinery project in the RM of Corman Park may be deferred by Fortune Minerals.

For years, the company has been talking about building a mine in the Northwest Territories that could produce ore containing cobalt, gold, bismuth and copper suplhate. The concentrated ore would then be refined at a facility near Langham, Sask., 30 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

However, Fortune has now said those plans might be changing. “We’ve been approached by large mining and refining companies with interest in directly purchasing the concentrate that we’d produce in the Northwest Territories,” said spokesperson Troy Nazarewicz. If that happens, the refinery wouldn’t be immediately needed. Continue Reading →

Guest view: Critical minerals and metals must come from Montana too – by Courtney Young (Montana Standard – July 16, 2018)

Courtney Young is a Lewis S. Prater Distinguished Professor and the department head of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Montana Tech.

Our country has a great abundance of mineral resources used to manufacture goods of all kinds. For weapons systems and consumer electronics, the value alone is estimated at $6.2 trillion; however, because cumbersome regulations and permitting processes hamper mining, we now rely on foreign suppliers for more than half of our needs.

The situation has become so dire that various government agencies assessed our supply and demand of minerals and metals and labeled many as critical materials.

The largest share is minerals imported from China or from mines elsewhere in the world that are owned by Chinese companies. For instance, we rely on China for over 96 percent of rare earth minerals that are needed in the production of military items such as night-vision goggles, advanced radar and electronic warfare systems, and precision-guided weapons. Continue Reading →

China’s cobalt dominance meets blockchain-backed resistance – by Rurika Imahashi and Nikki Sun (Nikkei Asian Review – July 17, 2018)

TOKYO/HONG KONG — The equation could not be simpler. Electric cars are widely considered the future of the auto industry. Each electric car battery requires about 10 kg of cobalt. Control the cobalt supply, win the future. China, clearly, has done the math.

Most of the cobalt produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo — the world’s top source of the metal by far — is purchased by Chinese companies like Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and refined back in China. The strategy appears to be to control the supply chain so that electric car production is virtually impossible without Chinese involvement.

“If cobalt falls into the hands of the Chinese, yeah you won’t see EVs being produced in Europe, etc.,” Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive of Swiss miner Glencore, warned in March at the FT Commodities Global Summit. Continue Reading →

Trump Tariff List Targets High-Tech Minerals That U.S. Needs (Bloomberg News – ‎July‎ ‎11‎, ‎2018‎)

Given the Trump administration’s stated aim of maintaining its advantage in manufacturing prowess over China, there are some curious inclusions on Wednesday’s list of new tariffs.

Among them are rare-earths, an esoteric collection of minerals with strange names (yttrium, praseodymium), high-tech applications and a history of scarcity. They’re used in everything from hybrid vehicles to electronic gadgets and military hardware.

China’s grip on rare-earths supply is so strong that the U.S. joined with other nations earlier this decade in a World Trade Organization case to force the nation to export more of the materials, not less, after prices spiked amid a global shortage. The WTO ruled in favor of the U.S., while prices eventually slumped as manufacturers turned to alternatives. Continue Reading →