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

U.S. Loosing Global Battery Arms Race that is Critically Dependent on Nickel, Cobalt and Lithium – by Simon Moores (Benchmark Mineral Intelligence – February 5, 2019)

  • Written Testimony of Simon Moores, Managing Director, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
  • For: US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Hearing: Tuesday, February 5 2019, at 10:00a.m. Room 366, Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.
  • Subject: Outlook for energy and minerals markets in the 116th Congress.

We are in the midst of a global battery arms race in which the US is presently a bystander.

Since my last testimony only 14 months ago, we have reached a new gear in this energy storage revolution which is now having a profound impact on supply chains and the raw materials that fuel it.

The advent of electric vehicles (EVs) and the emergence of battery energy storage has sparked a wave of lithium ion battery megafactories being built. Continue Reading →

Lithium and cobalt – what to look for in 2019 – by Wood Mackenzie ( – January 30, 2019)

Last year saw perhaps less exuberance in the lithium sector. The muted response to the IPOs of industry majors Ganfeng and Livent (ex-FMC) probably best exemplified the lull in excitement. Meanwhile, stocks of already traded lithium companies also had a painful time of it in 2018.

For lithium spot prices in the Chinese domestic market, 2018 saw only one direction – down. Rising domestic supply, EV subsidy changes, and destocking all combined to send prices for 99.5% lithium carbonate from RMB160,000/t at the start of 2018 to RMB77,500/t by the end of the year.

Yet conversely, average prices for seaborne material – largely sold on contract basis – seemingly bucked the trend, with realised prices for SQM and Albermarle increasing up to Q3 2018. Continue Reading →

How the US lost the plot on rare earths – by Rick Rule ( – January 2019)

On Wednesday morning, a rocket blasted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas facility in West Texas, carrying eight NASA experiments into space with it. Climbing past an altitude of 350,000 feet (over 100 kilometers), the New Shepard rocket launched its capsule, from which the company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos plans to conduct space tourism. Blue Origin tweeted that it plans to begin flying humans to space next year.

Those watching Wednesday’s launch probably assume that the parts for American rockets are made in the United States. While that may be true for space-travel companies like Space X, Blue Origin and Virgin, it isn’t for rockets sent skyward for national security missions, through something called the United Launch Alliance. These rockets are powered by Russian engines. Yes, you read that right.

Our Cold War enemy for 30-odd years, which ironically started the space race with the 1957 launch of Sputnik, all use RD-180 engines made by NPO Energomash, a Russian state-owned company. Continue Reading →

Periodic table: new version warns of elements that are endangered – by David Cole-Hamilton (The Conversation – January 24, 2019)

It is amazing to think that everything around us is made up from just 90 building blocks – the naturally occurring chemical elements. Dmitri Mendeleev put the 63 of these known at the time into order and published his first version of what we now recognise as the periodic table in 1869. In that year, the American civil war was just over, Germany was about to be unified, Tolstoy published War and Peace, and the Suez Canal was opened.

There are now 118 known elements but only 90 that occur in nature. The rest are mostly super-heavy substances that have been created in laboratories in recent decades through nuclear reactions, and rapidly decay into one or more of the natural elements.

Where each of these natural elements sits in the periodic table allows us to know immediately a great deal about how it will behave. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of this amazing resource, UNESCO has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table. Continue Reading →

REVIEW: Groundbreaking! America’s new quest for mineral independence (Canadian Mining Journal – January 21, 2019)

Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence. Dr. Ned Mamula and Ann Bridges. 294 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1729669525 / ISBN-10: 1729669522.

What happens when a geologist and an author whose chief interest is California’s Silicon Valley get together to take a look at the United States’ dependence on foreign supplies of critical minerals? The result is a long hard look at how our southern neighbour failed to take advantage of its mineral resources. Instead the authors say that the reliance on foreign supply has created a national security issue.

Groundbreaking! looks first at risk/reward, why minerals matter, and the U.S. dependence foreign suppliers for critical minerals. There is a run-down of mineral wealth in the U.S., and how the country should rediscover that wealth. The book has a running theme of the role of domestic mineral production as a national security issue.

There are separate chapters on rare earths, the American uranium debacle, and the Pebble gold mine in Alaska. Each is packed with facts, illustrations and tables about its topic. Continue Reading →

Ford launches blockchain project to trace cobalt in the Congo – by Hasan Chowdhury (The Telegraph – January 16, 2019)

Ford is preparing to clamp down on labour exploitation in the cobalt mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo by using blockchain technology to keep a record of supplies in the metal, a key ingredient for electric vehicle batteries.

The US carmaker will partner with LG Chem, a South Korean chemicals specialist and Chinese mining firm Huayou Cobalt for a pilot programme that will aim to ensure the in-demand metal is responsibly sourced. Concerns have mounted around a practice known as artisanal mining, which often involves children mining for metals by hand.

According to the Congo’s Chamber of Mines, 2m people are involved in artisanal mining in the country, with around 200,000 miners specifically digging in copper mines. Cobalt is usually obtained as a byproduct of copper and nickel mining. Continue Reading →

Congo poll leaves uncertainty for miners at heart of EV revolution – by Joe Bavier (Reuters U.S. – January 13, 2019)

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The surprise outcome of Congo’s election – a vote meant to bring closure to years of turmoil under President Joseph Kabila – has done little to ease uncertainty for miners and investors in a country crucial to the electric vehicle revolution.

Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s leading miner of cobalt, a mineral used in electric car batteries which has seen a surge in demand in recent years, with mines run by firms including Glencore (GLEN.L) and China Molybdenum (603993.SS).

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, an unknown quantity for mining executives, was declared the winner of last month’s chaotic vote on Thursday, defeating Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Continue Reading →

Green New Deal will only happen if we go back to the moon – by Mark R. Whittington (The Hill – January 11, 2019)

You have to hand it to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez (D-N.Y.). For someone who was, just a year ago, a bartender, she has some ambitious plans now that she is a member of Congress.

Among Ocasio–Cortez’s projects is something called the Green New Deal. The plan would mandate that the United States transform its energy infrastructure from one based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Thus, the problem of climate change will have been solved and the Earth would be saved. Big-pocketed people like Tom Steyer, an environmentalist billionaire donor, view the idea with favor.

Lots of reasons exist to dismiss the Green New Deal, it being a product born more of delusion than sound analysis. However, if the government were to embark upon making it a reality, the scheme might have an unintended side effect of supporting a return to the moon. Continue Reading →

Malaysia’s Rare Earth Debate: May forgo an opportunity to enter the lucrative market in favor of environmental protection – by Austin Bodetti (The Diplomat – January 10, 2019)

The customs war between China and the United States has affected countless facets of the world economy, but the consequences for the trade in rare earth elements, little-known minerals critical to the functionality of cellphones, electric cars, and televisions, may reverberate the farthest.

Malaysia, whose concerns over falling into China’s sphere of influence have only grown with the ascent of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, once seemed well positioned to seize a small but lucrative piece of this market for itself.

In recent months, though, Mahathir has signaled his willingness to listen to environmental organizations opposed to refining rare earths on Malaysian soil. How Mahathir proceeds will set the tone for the environmental movement in Malaysia for years to come. Continue Reading →

China to step up crackdown on rare earth sector: ministry (Reuters U.S. – January 4, 2019)

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China will step up efforts to eliminate illegal mining, production and smuggling of rare earth materials, while at the same time, encourage more high-end processing, the industry ministry said in new guidelines published on Friday.

China is responsible for more than 90 percent of the global supply of rare earth elements, a group of 17 metals used in high-tech and strategic sectors such as renewable energy and defense.

However, the country has spent the last decade trying to bring “order” to the sector by closing down illegal mines, restricting exports and domestic production. Small private firms have been shut down and control over the industry has been put in the hands of six state-owned mining groups. Continue Reading →

The Congo’s increasing instability heightens critical minerals concern – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – January 3, 2019)

This is the place that inspired the term “crimes against humanity.” As a timely new book points out, American writer George Washington Williams coined that phrase in 1890 after witnessing the cruel rapaciousness of Belgian King Leopold II’s rubber plantations in the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After rubber, the land and its people were exploited for ivory, copper, uranium, diamonds, oil, ivory, timber, gold and—of increasing concern for Westerners remote from the humanitarian plight—cobalt, tin, tungsten and tantalum. Controversy over recent elections now threatens the DRC with even greater unrest, possibly full-scale war.

The country of 85 million people typically changes governments through coup, rebellion or sham elections. Outgoing president Joseph Kabila ruled unconstitutionally since December 2016, when his mandate ended. Continue Reading →

Unfazed by market drubbing, Cobalt 27 continues dealmaking spree – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – January 3, 2019)

On Tuesday, it announced at least its third major deal in the past 12 months: a proposed $96-million buyout of Highlands Pacific

Cobalt 27 Capital Corp.’s stock may be limping along, down more than 75 per cent in the past year, but the Toronto-based company focused on electric vehicles is continuing its dealmaking spree.

On Tuesday, it announced at least its third major deal in the past 12 months: a proposed $96-million buyout of Highlands Pacific Ltd., which owns a stake in a nickel and cobalt mine in Papua New Guinea.

Nickel and cobalt are both key components in the lithium-ion batteries found in electric vehicles as well as smartphones and other devices. Cobalt 27 has been acquiring streams on both metals from mines around the world, betting that growing sales of electric vehicles will turbocharge demand for both metals. Continue Reading →

Utah has plenty of ‘bling’ from mining – by Amy Joi O’Donoghue (Desert News – December 25, 2018)

Aside from beryllium, Utah is the nation’s sole source of magnesium and is
home to U.S. Magnesium, the country’s only facility producing magnesium
metal from a primary source.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s mining industry put the state among the top 10 in the country for production in 2017, generating $3.3 billion from both industrial and precious metals.

Aside from the copper, silver, gold and molybdenum, Utah is home to the world’s only volcanic source of beryllium, an extremely light metal used in the manufacturing of cellphones, missiles, spacecraft and satellites.

Juab County’s Spor Mountain, where mining began in 1969, produces about 70 percent of the global supply of beryllium, said Ken Krahulec, the Utah Geological Survey’s senior economic geologist. Continue Reading →

Grand Theft Cobalt: Rotterdam – by Kit Chellel and Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – December 27, 2018)

Thieves are pulling off audacious metal heists at Europe’s largest port. They’re even stealing from the Cobalt Jesus.

A group of bankers, brokers, and journalists was huddled outside a dingy warehouse along the Nieuwe Maas River in Rotterdam on a gray morning last January. All around was the industrial sprawl of Europe’s largest port, a landscape of cranes and colorful shipping containers stacked up like Lego bricks, reversing trucks and squalling gulls.

The building was run by Vollers Group GmbH, a logistics specialist based in Germany. One of its managers, Martijn Wijbrandi, led his visitors inside to get high-viz jackets and a safety briefing. We’ve never had a problem with theft, Wijbrandi said, but it pays to be careful.

He pointed out the alarm system, secured by a PIN code. On the warehouse floor, everyone filed past piles of magnesium bricks and bags of coffee to an area walled off by steel sheets that rose almost to the ceiling. A security camera was aimed at the padlocked sliding door. Continue Reading →

How this African election could spell trouble for Tesla – by Aleks Vickovich (Your Money – December 20, 2018)

Your Money

Supply of precious metals hinge on peace in this troubled country.

Few rags to riches stories exemplify the troubles of Africa like the rise of Joseph Kabila. Born in a small village in what was then Zaire in 1971, a military career led him ultimately to the presidency of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and (in what is unfortunately unlikely to be a coincidence) vast personal wealth.

Like far too many sub-Saharan leaders, Kabila’s reign has become synonymous with conflict and corruption. Researchers at New York University have estimated that the First Family has financial interests in companies, especially miners, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile the average salary in the DRC is $394 USD per annum, and many Congolese citizens live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, and some in full-blown warzones. This weekend, the people of the so-called Democratic republic have an opportunity to exercise that democracy and put an end to the Kabila regime. At least in theory. Continue Reading →