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

Vanadium price leaps to near-record high – by Frik Els (Mining.com – October 15, 2018)

http://www.mining.com/

While not as exciting as the transformation in the auto market with the shift to electric vehicles, demand growth from batteries used for renewable energy storage has the potential to have a bigger impact on mining.

One of the prime technologies that could grab market share from lithium ion for large scale storage systems is so-called vanadium redox flow cells.

The rally in vanadium prices is only accelerating with vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) flake used in energy storage systems leaping to $27.50 a pound in China putting it within shouting distance of the all-time high reached in 2005. V2O5 is up more than 550% since September 2016. Continue Reading →

Battery metals appear to be losing their spark as prices start to fall – by Courtney Goldsmith (World Finance – October 16, 2018)

https://www.worldfinance.com/

Cobalt and lithium prices have surged as a rise in renewable energy has increased the need for battery storage solutions. However, the bubble may be about to burst for these metals

The automotive industry is on the verge of an electric revolution. The International Energy Agency has predicted the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads will triple to hit 13 million by the end of the decade – and by 2030 that number could soar to 125 million.

Meanwhile, the rise of renewable energy generation has boosted demand for battery storage, which can balance intermittent power from green energy sources. The global energy storage market is expected to grow to more than 300GWh between 2016 and 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

These new industries are powering demand for batteries, which has thrust a number of little-known metals into the spotlight. This has led to the price of lithium – a key component in lithium-ion batteries – doubling between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile, the price of cobalt – a by-product of copper or nickel mining that is used in battery cathodes – has more than tripled since January 2016 (see Fig 1). Continue Reading →

Depending on the enemy: The U.S. calls for new supply strategies to meet economic and defence risks – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – October 10, 2018)

http://resourceclips.com/

The goal might be summed up by a new slogan: Make America Self-Reliant Again. Or, with a tad less concision: Let’s Stop Relying on an Economic Rival that’s a Potential Military Threat for the Stuff We Need to Compete with an Economic Rival that’s a Potential Military Threat.

A newly released study from the U.S. Secretary of Defense illustrates that absurd dilemma. The dependency runs the gamut from sourcing raw materials to refining them, manufacturing key components, developing R&D, training workers, even setting prices. As the report says, “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers.

It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Continue Reading →

Is your phone tainted by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo’s mines? – by Siddharth Kara (The Guardian – October 11, 2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/

My field research shows that children as young as six are among those risking their lives amid toxic dust to mine cobalt for the world’s big electronics firms.

Until recently, I knew cobalt only as a colour. Falling somewhere between the ocean and the sky, cobalt blue has been prized by artists from the Ming dynasty in China to the masters of French Impressionism. But there is another kind of cobalt, an industrial form that is not cherished for its complexion on a palette, but for its ubiquity across modern life.

This cobalt is found in every lithium-ion rechargeable battery on the planet – from smartphones to tablets to laptops to electric vehicles. It is also used to fashion superalloys to manufacture jet engines, gas turbines and magnetic steel.

You cannot send an email, check social media, drive an electric car or fly home for the holidays without using this cobalt. As I learned on a recent research trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this cobalt is not awash in cerulean hues. Instead, it is smeared in misery and blood. Continue Reading →

Cobalt refinery edges closer to restart: First Cobalt puts out the mill feed call to North American, international suppliers – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – October 11, 2018)

https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

Securing outside feedstock is the key to a faster restart of a cobalt refinery in northeastern Ontario. First Cobalt announced Oct. 10 that it’s in discussions with “several parties” to obtain an outside supply of feedstock that could help finance the restart of its mill near the town of Cobalt.

The Toronto junior miner is evaluating all aspects of how soon to reopen the shuttered operation it purchased in 2017, and position it as a toll milling facility. How soon it reopens depends on the outcome of those talks with suppliers.

The company acquired the 22-year-old facility when it began assembling its sizeable land holdings of more than 11,700 hectares in the Cobalt camp, which includes 50 former silver mines containing cobalt material. Continue Reading →

How clean energy demand could fuel conflict in Congo – by Irina Ivanova (CBS News – October 9, 2018)

https://www.cbsnews.com/

If there were ever a time to mass-produce solar energy, it’s right now, according to the U.N. To stave off the most catastrophic effects of global warming, the world needs to rapidly shift away from fossil fuels and into large-scale solar, wind and energy storage, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said this week.

But if the clean-energy boom isn’t managed carefully, it could fuel mineral conflicts in developing countries. That’s according to a recent report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, which urges governments and corporations to source minerals responsibly to avoid “grievances, tensions and conflict.”

Solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and batteries are all high-tech devices, and like other technology, they rely on tiny amounts of rare minerals to work. Continue Reading →

DRC Cobalt: A potential achilles heel of electric vehicles – by Michael Schwartz (Global Risks Insight – October 5, 2018)

Global Risks Insight

Cobalt’s essential role in lithium-ion batteries has and will continue to make it increasingly important for the global consumer economy. Cobalt serves as a key component in battery-based devices by allowing them to operate over longer periods without overheating.

With the global transition to electric vehicles (EVs), corporations are increasingly forced to rely on cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a culture of corruption, unscrupulous mining practices, and political instability threaten supply security.

The Electric Vehicle revolution and rising demand for cobalt

EVs are still in their infancy, but many governments and corporations are committed to a green automotive future. While Washington has currently abdicated global leadership in promoting EVs, China has embraced the transition, with 777,000 EVs sold in country last year—approximately half of the global total—and this is set to triple by 2025. Continue Reading →

Deep-Sea Mining for Rare-Earth Metals Looms, as Do Environmental Questions – by Adam Allington and Stephen Lee (Bloomberg News – September 28, 2018)

https://www.bna.com/

Once thought too expensive and too difficult, commercial scale mining of the deep sea is poised to become a reality as early as 2019. But scientists warn reaching rare minerals on and under the sea floor could cause irreversible damage to an environment that is still poorly understood.

As new technologies come online, mining companies are probing depths from 5,000 to 16,000 feet to expose new deposits of manganese, copper, cobalt, and other rare-earth minerals necessary to build everything from smartphones to solar panels to electric cars.

“People are making new discoveries almost every week; we’re nowhere near plateauing in our understanding of these deep-sea ecosystems,” said Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at the University of California-San Diego. Continue Reading →

Trump threatened to suspend the ‘conflict minerals’ provision of Dodd-Frank. That might actually be good for Congo. – by Nik Stoop, Marijke Verpoorten and Peter van der Windt (Washington Post – September 27, 2018)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Most Americans think of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act as a far-reaching effort to regulate the financial services industry to prevent another global recession. But there’s a somewhat obscure provision involving Congo that the Trump administration threatened to undo.

And that might have been a good thing for Congo, since — according to our research — the provision had troubling unintended consequences and was not helping to reduce conflict, as intended.

In February 2017, President Trump threatened to suspend Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which would have required his administration to replace it with ‘more effective means.’ Although the suspension did not actually take effect, his interest in suspending the law is a reminder of a contentious piece of legislation that had noble intentions but mixed effects. Continue Reading →

Blood Batteries – Cobalt And The Congo – by James Conca (Forbes Magazine – September 26, 2018)

https://www.forbes.com/

Vivienne Walt and Sebastian Meyer wrote a piercing analysis in Fortune on the conditions surrounding Co supply from the world’s largest supplier of the metal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

The reason this is so important is that many of the people who support the new energy technological revolution of non-fossil fuels, renewables and new nuclear SMRs, electric vehicles, conservation and efficiency, also care about the social issues that many of these technologies incorporate in their wake – corruption, environmental pollution, extreme poverty and child labor.

And the supply of Co is the perfect intersection of these two issues. With support from the Pulitzer Center, Walt and Meyer focused on the lives of the poor laborers in this former Belgian colony, especially children, and how their exploitation is making our lives easier. Continue Reading →

The Californian Rare Earths Mine Caught Between Trump and China (Bloomberg News – September 26, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The only operating rare earths mine in the U.S. – and once the world’s biggest — is caught up in the crossfire of the Trump administration’s trade war with China.

Rare earths, an esoteric group of materials used in everything from Tesla Inc. automobiles to high-tech military equipment, were dropped this week from the U.S.’s final $200 billion catalog of tariffs on Chinese goods, but China didn’t reciprocate on its own hit list.

For MP Mine Operations LLC, the U.S. consortium that owns the Mountain Pass mine in California, that’s a problem because it ships semi-processed output for refining in China, which plans a 10-percent tariff on these imports, rising to 25 percent next year. Continue Reading →

[Rare Earths Minerals] U.S. Reliance on Obscure Imports From China Points to Strategic Vulnerability – by Chuin-Wei Yap (Wall Street Journal – September 24, 2018)

https://www.wsj.com/

Forget Apple Inc.’s smartwatch. When it comes to goods the Trump administration exempted from its latest blitz of tariffs on Chinese imports, the cases of fluorine salts and carbonate esters say more about where the U.S. is vulnerable in its reliance on Chinese supply.

The chemicals, used to make electrolytes for electric-car batteries, are among 297 dispensations sparing importers the new 10% levy. The mineral barite, which helps energy companies drill for oil and gas, and the painkiller ibuprofen—90% of which comes from China—were also beneficiaries, along with Apple’s far-better-known products, including its smartwatches and AirPods.

While the latest broadside from the U.S. in its tariff feud with China, covering 5,745 items worth some $200 billion, is a demonstration of America’s buying power, items cut from the initial tariff hit-list point to weaknesses across a range of businesses, from energy giants like Halliburton Co. to smaller suppliers of specialty parts, all of which sought waivers for raw materials and parts by arguing that China had become an indispensable supplier. Continue Reading →

Deep sea robots reveal mineral riches in the abyss – by Matthew Stock (Reuters U.K. – September 20, 2018)

https://uk.reuters.com/

BERGEN, Norway (Reuters) – From the safety of their research vessel, scientists are exploring one of Earth’s last frontiers – the sea floor – to discover more about valuable minerals vital in the manufacture of smartphones.

The scientists, from the University of Bergen in Norway, are sending robots 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) down into the waters between Norway and Greenland, to try to understand the environments potentially rich with rare earth minerals.

“The ocean sea floor on Earth is, for the most part, unknown,” scientist Thibaut Barreyre told Reuters. Continue Reading →

China’s Grip on Rare Earths May Have Proven Too Strong for Trump – by Martin Ritchie (Bloomberg News – September 18, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The U.S. appears to have shelved its plan to levy tariffs on a critical collection of minerals used in everything from hybrid vehicles to electronic gadgets and military hardware.

Rare earths including scandium and yttrium are absent from the latest list of about $200 billion of Chinese goods on which the Trump administration plans to impost duties from next week. They were among a number of items scrubbed from the preliminary target list released in July along with car seats and Bluetooth devices.

Their inclusion in the first place was odd. China produced more than 80 percent of the world’s rare-earth metals and compounds in 2017, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Continue Reading →

Open letter to anyone who uses a smartphone, drives an electric car, or flies on a plane – by Siddharth Kara (Harvard Kennedy School/Reuters – September 18, 2018)

http://news.trust.org/

Make no mistake – the supply chain of cobalt from the Congo is smeared in blood and misery

I recently returned from a research trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where tens of thousands of children toil in abject squalor, endure pitiful penny wages, grave injury, and even death in order to mine cobalt.

Once processed, this cobalt is used in the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power our electronic devices, allow us to snap photos and videos that capture our lives, and connect us to social media. It also powers our electric vehicles and is used to build the jet engines that carry us around the world.

Companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung, Tesla, Boeing, and dozens more that buy cobalt sourced from the DRC are aware of the appalling conditions in which cobalt can be mined, yet no one appears willing to address the situation. Make no mistake – the supply chain of cobalt from the Congo is smeared in blood and misery. Continue Reading →