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

Commentary: Vanadium’s electric future hobbled by its industrial past – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – December 5, 2018)

LONDON (Reuters) – Last year it was cobalt. The year before that it was lithium. This year it is vanadium, another esoteric element of the periodic table that is on a wild bull rampage.

Vanadium prices in China have more than tripled over the course of 2018, albeit with some recent softening from their early-November peaks. The share price of South Africa’s Bushveld Minerals, one of only a handful of primary producers, has soared from less than 10 pence per share at the start of the year to 42 pence currently.

Vanadium is the latest exotic metal to feel the new energy heat. The vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) is a breakthrough technology in energy storage, a fast-growing component of the infrastructure needed to accommodate the global shift to renewable energy. Continue Reading →

UPDATE 1-Congo state miner in production-sharing deal with Chinese firm (Reuters U.K. – December 3, 2018)

KINSHASA, Dec 3 (Reuters) – Congo’s Gecamines said on Monday it had signed a production-sharing deal for copper and cobalt deposits with China’s Hongkong Excellen Mining Investment, which will pay a $40 million signing bonus.

Congo’s state mining company said its first production-sharing deal would guarantee it a “significant” share of annual production from the Kingamyambo and Kilamusembo deposits “regardless of the financial results of the project”.

China is the world’s largest consumer of industrial metals and has strengthened its grip over supplies from across Africa in recent years to feed its economic growth. Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s top copper producer and the leading miner of cobalt, which is used for electric car batteries. Continue Reading →

Cobalt mining shows clean energy revolution comes at a price – by Zoe Dawson (Irish Times – December 2, 2018)

Zoe Dawson is from Dublin and studying for a master’s degree in global affairs at New York University.

As the global transition to clean energy has progressed, demand for cobalt has rocketed. A natural metallic element, cobalt has unique properties that make it a key component in the production of batteries.

Until recently, smartphones and laptops drove demand for batteries; however, the growing market for electric vehicles and renewable-energy power storage has resulted in a surge in the demand for cobalt.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s wealthiest countries when it comes to natural resources and contains half of the world’s cobalt reserves. Despite the country’s natural mineral wealth, however, many challenges persist there. To facilitate the emerging clean and sustainable economy the world is highly dependent on a mineral produced via some of the most criticised practices, with no one being held accountable for the human-rights abuses taking place. Continue Reading →

DRC miners blame international investors and activists for lack of progress – by William Clowes (Business Day – November 29, 2018)

Kinshasa — Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) state mining company blamed international investors and anticorruption activists for the country’s lack of progress despite its vast mineral wealth.

Nongovernmental organisations including the Atlanta-based Carter Center and London-based Global Witness have accused Gecamines of failing to account for hundreds of millions of dollars paid to the state miner by the companies exporting copper and cobalt from the Central African nation.

Gecamines president Albert Yuma launched a report late Wednesday, rebutting the allegations and asserting that foreign producers are responsible for the industry’s meager contribution to national development. He pledged to renegotiate existing partnerships with foreign mining investors. Major miners active in DRC include Glencore and China Molybdenum. Continue Reading →

Electric Car Revolution Could Stall on Cobalt Shortage – by Stephen Gardner (Bloomberg News – November 21, 2018)

BMW Group, General Motors Co., Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and other car companies could hit a roadblock in their efforts to put more electric vehicles on the market: a cobalt shortage.

The silvery metal, a byproduct of copper mining, is in high demand as a component of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. But there might not be enough cobalt to go around, forcing car companies to look for alternatives, potentially delaying the transition to electric motoring.

Even in a scenario in which battery technology is improved to minimize the need for cobalt, the metal will be in short supply from 2025 on, according to projections published this month by the Joint Research Centre, the in-house science service of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm. Continue Reading →

Trouble in the Congo: The Misadventures of Glencore – by Franz Wild, Vernon Silver and William Clowes (Bloomberg News – November 16, 2018)

What a time to own the world’s most valuable cobalt mine, and to have to fight to keep it.

A dozen years ago the future of technology bounced out of a remote corner of Africa on the back of a truck, along with a world of potential trouble. Both, embodied in the same load of rock, landed in the hands of Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive officer of Glencore Plc, the world’s largest middleman for the raw materials that fuel, feed, and underpin civilization.

Glasenberg’s obsession was copper, because China’s appetite for it was insatiable, with copper wire electrifying the nation’s rising cities and running through the appliances its factories sold to the West. The metal’s price had quadrupled in less than three years, triggering a global frenzy. Miners blasted it from Chilean mountaintops and dug it from the African earth as fast as they could.

At a processing plant in Zambia, Glencore was buying up all the ore containing copper it could get its hands on when technicians noticed something extraordinary. One trader consistently rolled in with rocks showing levels of purity that were off the charts—not just for copper, but also for the blue metal cobalt. Continue Reading →

Abandoned Canadian silver mines could boom again as battery demand prompts gold rush in cobalt – by Peter Armstrong (CBC News Business – November 15, 2018)

Cobalt, Ont., could could be sitting on a gold mine — of cobalt — to help power electric cars, phones

The flooded bottom of an abandoned silver mine is an unlikely source of hope. But down there in the flickering light, a once worthless metal known as cobalt has sat idle for decades. Now it’s one of the most sought after metals in the world and that has many in this town in northern Ontario dreaming of boom times once again.

A century ago, prospectors came to Cobalt, Ont., in search of silver. They found it, and the town boomed. Amid all the silver, miners also found cobalt. So much that they named the town after it. Back then though, it was a mere indicator, a sign that something of actual value was nearby.

Now, all that ignored and discarded cobalt is the town’s best hope. “The potential here is huge,” says Frank Basa, chief executive officer of Canada Cobalt Works. Cobalt the metal has had a spectacular run over the past few years. And now Cobalt the town is poised to cash in. Continue Reading →

Ni & Co CONFERENCE: Nine key takeaways from Xiamen – by Charlotte Radford, Susan Zou and Violet Li (Metal Bulletin – November 12, 2018)

The spotlight was in Xiamen last week when market participants gathered to discuss hot topics in the cobalt and nickel markets, including higher cobalt prices and their impact on the market in addition to new trends for the cobalt industry.

High prices do not hurt the overall use of cobalt in consumer electronics

Cobalt prices hit a near 10-year high in April, but the blue metal’s high prices will not lead to many cobalt substitutions in consumer electronics, according to battery manufacturer ATL’s procurement director, Xu Shihui.

Cobalt demand from the consumer electronics industry will continue to grow due to new trends, including the intact adoption of lithium-cobalt-oxide (LCO) batteries in laptops and smart phones. Continue Reading →

Electric vehicles spur race to mine deep sea riches – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – November 13, 2018)

Miners want to tap subsea deposits of cobalt and other rare metals for green technologies, but environmental campaigners are worried

Gerard Barron brandishes a small black rock — the size of the palm of his hand — and heralds it as the future: “It’s all right here, all the metals we need.”

The Australian entrepreneur believes these rocks, formed over millions of years at the bottom of the ocean, can help satisfy the growing demand for the metals used in batteries and clean energy technologies, and are therefore critical to the transition away from fossil fuels. Less than 20cm wide, the so-called nodules can contain nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt— all set to see a surge in demand over the next decade.

Mr Barron’s start-up, DeepGreen, which is backed by shipping group Maersk and Switzerland-based miner Glencore, plans to suck up thousands of tonnes of the nodules from the sea floor using harvesting vehicles, and send them up a pipe to a ship to be sorted. Mining in the deep sea (defined as below 200m) can avoid the problems of land mining, he says, such as deforestation, pollution and child labour, although critics say it produces a whole new raft of problems. Continue Reading →

Chinese vessel collects cobalt samples in the Pacific: Xinhua (Reuters U.S. – November 11, 2018)

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese deep-sea exploration vessel has returned to port in Guangdong after collecting samples of so-called cobalt-bearing crusts during a 138-day survey in the west Pacific, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

Cobalt is used in batteries for electric vehicles, an important industry for China, the world’s largest auto market. Chinese companies are some of the biggest investors in cobalt mining projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s biggest producer.

The Ocean No. 6 vessel, designed in China, conducted a survey of cobalt-bearing crusts, found on the surface of underwater mountains, in more than 30 areas, Xinhua cited Yang Shengxiong, chief engineer at the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey, as saying. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Glencore’s radioactive shock for the cobalt market – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – November 9, 2018)

LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Glencore’s Katanga mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was supposed to transform the cobalt market. After two years of being offline, Katanga’s ramp-up was going to add 11,000 tonnes to global supply this year. The surge, equivalent to 10 percent of world production last year, would flip the global market from supply shortfall to surplus.

That was the idea anyway. Katanga’s cobalt, however, has turned out to be radioactive. Glencore’s operating subsidiary, Katanga Mining, has found uranium with “low levels of radioactivity” in its cobalt hydroxide product.

Not enough to pose a health and safety scare, but enough to prevent the material being handled by ports. Katanga will keep producing but it has suspended cobalt sales until it has built an ion-exchange plant to remove the uranium. Continue Reading →

Editorial: Kamoto halt highlights cobalt’s unpredictability – by John Cumming (Northern Miner – November 8, 2018)

Northern Miner

Anyone needing a reminder of the tenuousness of the global cobalt market — which plays a major role in underpinning the global boom in electric vehicles (EVs) — need only look at the stark news on Nov. 6 that Glencore’s 75%-owned subsidiary Katanga Mining has suspended sales from its large Kamoto cobalt-copper mining complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), owing to uranium contamination of cobalt concentrates destined for export.

At press time on the day of the news, Katanga Mining shares closed down 23% to 49¢, compared to a multi-year peak of $2.67 on Jan. 3, 2018. Likewise, Glencore shares dropped 2.9% on the news in London trading.

Located in the DRC’s Kolwezi district, Kamoto had been slated to become the world’s largest cobalt mine during 2019 — cementing Glencore’s position as the world’s largest cobalt producer. Continue Reading →

China pledges bigger quotas for rare earth mining and exports – by Staff (Asia Times – November 8, 2018)

Beijing has again sought to refute rumors about its plans to exploit its stranglehold on the global supply of rare-earth metals. It also denies any intention to slash the mining of the 17 chemically-similar elements out of its ore deposits as well as their exports to major overseas markets.

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has pledged that the country’s planned mining and output of rare-earth minerals will continue to rise.

It further states that global manufacturers of magnets, catalysts, alloys and electronic devices can rest assured that there would never be any policy-driven curb on supplies. Continue Reading →

Glencore’s Radioactive News May Help Give Cobalt Its Buzz Back – by Jack Farchy, Thomas Biesheuvel and Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – November 7, 2018)

(Bloomberg) — Glencore Plc’s sudden discovery that some of its cobalt is radioactive couldn’t come at a better time.

After a surge in prices last year, enthusiasm for cobalt has been fading, partly because of a surge in new supply. But sentiment could be changing after Glencore’s unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo suspended cobalt sales after detecting low levels of radioactivity.

“It’s nice to finally have some positive news in the market,” Gordon Buchanan, a senior trader at Stratton Metal Resources, said by phone from London. Continue Reading →

Electric car demand fueling rise in child labor in DR Congo: campaigners – by Nellie Peyton (Reuters U.S. – November 2, 2018)

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Demand for electric vehicles is fueling a rise in child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, experts said this week, urging companies to take action as the industry expands.

Cobalt is a key component in batteries for electric cars, phones and laptops, and Congo provides more than half of global supply. Tens of thousands of children as young as six dig for the toxic substance in artisanal mines in the country’s southeast, without protective clothing, rights groups say.

As companies move to secure their supply of cobalt, they should also make a push to improve transparency and labor rights, said U.S.-based advocacy group Enough Project. Continue Reading →