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

Scarcely ahead: tech titans and the resource race (part 1) – by Jessica Clarence (The Strategist – April 20, 2018)

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/

In 1980 US President Jimmy Carter established the Carter Doctrine, asserting the right of the United States to protect strategic interests in the Middle East. The doctrine reflected the reality that oil sustained the US (and world) economy, and without it economies would collapse. ‘Energy geopolitics’—competition between states for energy security—reflected this worldwide resource race; a race as relevant today as it was in the 20th century.

Today we’re approaching an era where clean energy technology outstrips fossil fuels. This means that there will again be an energy race—but the essential component will be the humble battery. Western tech companies and their Chinese counterparts are competing, and right now Western tech companies are on their own, while Chinese companies have the full backing of their government.

Batteries are essential to all wireless electronic equipment. There are many battery technologies, but lithium-ion batteries are the most widely used in portable electronics. Raw materials account for up to 39% of a lithium battery’s cost. The hardest to obtain is cobalt, one of 27 ‘critical’ minerals. Continue Reading →

China can’t control the market in rare earth elements because they aren’t all that rare – by James Vincent (The Verge.com – April 17, 2018)

https://www.theverge.com/

You can’t handle the truth (about rare earth elements)

If you need to know one thing about rare earth metals, it’s that they’re crucial to modern technology, helping power everything from MRI machines and satellites to headphones and nuclear reactors. If you need to know two things, it’s that despite their name, they’re not at all rare.

This second fact is crucial when putting recent headlines about these 17 oddly named elements in proper context. Last week, many publications covered the news that a Japanese team of scientists had found a huge trove of rare earth elements off the coast of the country’s Minamitori Island. Some 16 million tons were estimated to be lurking in the deep-sea mud, enough to meet global demand on a “semi-infinite basis,” said the researchers.

This news was positioned as having great geopolitical significance. China currently produces more than 90 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth materials (the exact figure tends to fluctuate year-by-year), and in the event of a conflict, said reports, it could jack up prices for the West and its allies, or even shut them out altogether. Continue Reading →

An ugly truth behind ‘ethical consumerism’ – by Laura Kasinof (Washington Post – April 19, 2018)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Laura Kasinof is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia. Reporting for this story was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

KACHUBA, Congo — The way to the mine wound upward past fields of cassava and sweet potato, a patchwork quilt of small farms set among villages of round, thatched-roof homes. An hour’s climb up, the Kachuba tin mine community is a collection of shacks that serves as a home-away-from-home for the hundred or so men who come here hoping to make a living wage out of what the mountain provides.

Men toted 110-pound bags of cassiterite — the most common tin-producing ore — down the footpath to a station below, where it would be prepared for export. For each bag a porter carries, he earns around $4. If the mine is producing well, a porter might make the roundtrip a handful of times a day.

On the other side of the makeshift village, down a sharp hill, the serenity of Kachuba’s natural beauty suddenly gave way to the grit of hard manual labor. Here there was a nearly 500-foot-deep pit, at the end of which men spend their days picking at the earth with rudimentary tools. The miners said, on a good day, they can make almost $30 in the pit, working from morning until dark. Continue Reading →

[Japan] Discovery could smash China’s rare-earths stranglehold (Asia Times – April 18, 2018)

http://www.atimes.com/

A mineral deposit has been found in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Western Pacific, with a size and concentration comparable to China’s

A “semi-infinite” supply of rare earths, vital elements for the global production of batteries, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones and many others, has been found in a deep-sea ore deposit about 1,850 kilometers southeast of Tokyo, beneath the waves of the vast northwestern Pacific Ocean, The Wall Street Journal reported this month.

Researchers from Tokyo-based Waseda University have surveyed the roughly 2,500-square-kilometer region of the sea floor there, at depths of 5,600 to 5,800 meters, off the coral atoll of Minami-Tori-shima, aka Marcus Island, and affirmed the area could hold more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides.

They would include 780 years’ worth of the global supply of yttrium, 620 years’ worth of europium, 420 years’ worth of terbium, and 730 years’ worth of dysprosium, according to their paper that appeared in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue Reading →

Can’t live without them: The U.S. Critical Materials Institute develops new technologies for crucial commodities – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – March 23, 2018)

http://resourceclips.com/

A rare earths supply chain outside China? It exists in the United States and Alex King has proof on his desk in the form of neodymium-iron-boron magnets, an all-American achievement from mine to finished product.

But the Critical Materials Institute director says it’s up to manufacturers to take this pilot project to an industry-wide scale. Meanwhile the CMI looks back on its first five years of successful research while preparing future projects to help supply the stuff of modern life.

The CMI’s genesis came in the wake of crisis. China’s 2010 ban on rare earths exports to Japan abruptly destroyed non-Chinese supply chains. As other countries began developing their own deposits, China changed tactics to flood the market with relatively cheap output. Continue Reading →

Cobalt Firm Says Chinese Car Companies Keen to Secure Supplies (Bloomberg News – April 16, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Cobalt 27 Capital Corp., owner of the world’s largest private stockpile of cobalt, said it is in talks for potential tie-ups with major Chinese companies seeking to secure supplies of the key metal in batteries powering electric vehicles.

Car and battery makers from China have approached Cobalt 27 to discuss long-term partnerships and supply contracts, Anthony Milewski, chief executive officer of the Canadian firm, said in an interview in Beijing on Monday. Milewski said he has at least 17 such meetings lined up in major Chinese cities over the next three days.

“There’s a lot of interest and it is natural because it is where all this will happen,” Milewski said, declining to identify the companies. “China is going to be the world leader of electric vehicles.” Continue Reading →

South Korean companies scramble to gain reliable supplies of cobalt – by Cho Kye-wan (Hankyoreh Hani English – April 15, 2018)

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/

As the price of cobalt skyrockets, major South Korean companies such as LG Chem and SK Innovation are scrambling to gain a supply of this key ingredient for electric car batteries.

Since the metal has become marked as a “conflict mineral” because of the prevalence of child labor in Congo, which accounts for more than half of its global supply, battery producers are looking to secure more stable supply channels.

On Apr. 11, LG Chem announced that it had inked a contract with China’s Huayou Cobalt to set up joint ventures to produce chemical precursors and cathodes. Huayou Cobalt is the global leader in its industry, refining 20,000 tons of cobalt that were imported from Congo in 2017. Continue Reading →

Japan Hopes Rare-Earth Find Will Give It an Edge Against China – by Mayumi Negishi (Wall Street Journal – April 11, 2018)

https://www.wsj.com/

Japan found hundreds of years’ worth of the minerals used in batteries and electric vehicles

TOKYO—Japan has hundreds of years’ worth of rare-earth metal deposits in its waters, according to new research that reflects Tokyo’s concern about China’s hegemony over minerals used in batteries and electric vehicles.

The deposits were found in the Pacific Ocean seabed near remote Minamitori Island, about 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo. Extracting them would likely be costly, but resource-poor Japan is pushing ahead with research in hopes of getting more control over next-generation technologies and weapon systems.

A roughly 965-square-mile seabed near the island contains more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides, estimated to hold 780 years’ worth of the global supply of yttrium, 620 years’ worth of europium, 420 years’ worth of terbium and 730 years’ worth of dysprosium, according to a study published this week in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports. Continue Reading →

[Rare Earth Metals] How China can win a trade war in 1 move – by Jeff Spross (The Week – April 6, 2018)

http://theweek.com/

hina will not be easily cowed in a trade dispute. Chinese President Xi Jinping is now exchanging threats of tit-for-tat tariffs with President Trump, who announced Thursday he’s considering raising the stakes another $100 billion. China vowed to defend itself “at any cost.”

Compared to the scale of the U.S. economy, the numbers are still relatively trivial and mostly theoretical. But if things do spiral into all-out trade war, it’s worth noting China has a nuclear option. I’m referring to rare earth metals.

These are elements like dysprosium, neodymium, gadolinium, and ytterbium. They aren’t actually rare, but they do play crucial roles in everything from smart phones to electric car motors, hard drives, wind turbines, military radar, smart bombs, laser guidance, and more. They’re also quite difficult to mine and process. Continue Reading →

The move to EVs will take time, but the shift in commodity demand will be ‘dramatic’ – Gareth Penny (Metal Bulletin – April 4, 2018)

https://www.metalbulletin.com/

In a comprehensive interview with Andrea Hotter in the April 2018 issue of Metal Market Magazine, Norilsk Nickel chairman Gareth Penny gave his predictions for electric and hybrid vehicle growth and how the company will move to maximize the value of its products.

As the electrification of the global economy continues to increase demand for the metals that Norilsk produces, particularly nickel and cobalt, Penny predicts a dramatic shift in commodity demand patterns.

“Like most of these things, the move to EVs will take longer than people think, but when the time arrives, it’ll be even more dramatic,” he says. Continue Reading →

Dormant Swedish Mine Comes Alive in Rush for Car Batteries – by Niclas Rolander and Jesper Starn (Bloomberg News – April 3, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The global race to develop batteries for electric cars is reaching deep into the pine forests of central Sweden, where a dormant graphite mine is getting a new lease on life.

Woxna, situated about 160 miles (259 kilometers) north of Stockholm, was mothballed in 2001 amid a slump in prices. Now, a Canadian company called Leading Edge Materials Corp. is preparing to revive operations.

Though graphite has grabbed fewer headlines than other battery components like lithium and cobalt, whose prices have surged in recent months, the carbon material makes up a large part of the raw material costs. Continue Reading →

Never Mind the Mines. In Congo, There’s Cobalt Under the House – by William Clowes and Thomas Wilson (Bloomberg News – March 28, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The man was digging a toilet in his backyard when his shovel struck a shimmering blue vein of cobalt. At least that’s the legend in Kolwezi. Once a few locals discovered the metal underfoot five years ago, everyone grabbed hand shovels and pickaxes; they tunneled beneath homes, schools and churches.

And that’s how a working-class neighborhood, located on the edges of a densely populated city of half a million, became a hive of pits and tunnels.

“My neighbors started to dig in 2013 and I followed their lead,” said Edmond Kalenga, who went as deep as 20 meters (65 feet) under his home. “The minerals are like a snake moving through the village. You just followed the snake.” Continue Reading →

Unearthing Results from Idaho’s Cobalt Belt – by Jon Brown (Stockhouse.com – March 27, 2018)

http://www.stockhouse.com/

FULL DISCLOSURE: Hybrid Minerals Inc. is a paid client of Stockhouse Publishing.

The automotive industry has a serious problem. There is a push to turn production toward electric vehicles, but the batteries that will power these vehicles is short on one key ingredient – cobalt. The price of cobalt has quadrupled over the last two years to roughly $40 a pound ($85 a kilogram) thanks to its rarity.

Add to this the challenge of just getting access to the metal, as much as 60% of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an embattled region to say the least.

A Canadian-based exploration company is rising to meet this challenge and is one step closer to bringing the United States’ only cobalt mine into current production. Hybrid Minerals Inc. (TSX: V.HZ, Forum) is focused on the acquisition and development of production-grade cobalt deposits and has a 100% stake in the advanced exploration CAS cobalt and gold project located in the Idaho Cobalt Belt. Continue Reading →

Can’t live without them: The U.S. Critical Materials Institute develops new technologies for crucial commodities – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – March 23, 2018)

http://resourceclips.com/

A rare earths supply chain outside China? It exists in the United States and Alex King has proof on his desk in the form of neodymium-iron-boron magnets, an all-American achievement from mine to finished product. But the Critical Materials Institute director says it’s up to manufacturers to take this pilot project to an industry-wide scale.

Meanwhile the CMI looks back on its first five years of successful research while preparing future projects to help supply the stuff of modern life.

The CMI’s genesis came in the wake of crisis. China’s 2010 ban on rare earths exports to Japan abruptly destroyed non-Chinese supply chains. As other countries began developing their own deposits, China changed tactics to flood the market with relatively cheap output. Continue Reading →

A Little-Known Cobalt Miner Wants to Out-Produce Everyone Except Glencore – by William Clowes (Bloomberg News – March 27, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

A little-known cobalt miner in the Democratic Republic of Congo plans to ramp up output so fast it will soon be out-produced only by industry leader Glencore Plc.

Chemaf Sarl, a closely held Lubumbashi-based company, and several other firms are capitalizing on a boom in demand that’s transforming small copper miners into major cobalt players, as refiners and automakers scramble to secure long-term supplies.

Prices for the metal, used to make rechargeable batteries in electric vehicles, have more than tripled in the past two years. New output from Congo means the supply of cobalt could exceed demand for a few years, as it did narrowly in 2017, Guildford, U.K.-based metals trader Darton Commodities Ltd. said in a February report. Continue Reading →