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

The next mining boom? Rare earths and the rise of Australia’s ‘other’ minerals – by Nick Toscano (Sydney Morning Herald – December 13, 2019)

Lithium, cobalt, titanium, rare earths – expect to hear more about them as we transition to green technologies. But what are they, actually? And what are they for?

Coal and iron ore are the heavy hitters of minerals in Australia. They’re our two top mining commodities by far, together accounting for 30 per cent of national exports.

But a handful of other minerals have become rather fashionable in recent times. They account for a small fraction of our export earnings and it’s mostly small operators that dig them out of the ground, with just a couple of big names in the mix. Yet they are rapidly becoming more important and edging their way into common parlance as result.

The sci-fi-sounding rare earths is one. Titanium is another. “He’s a man of titanium,” US President Donald Trump declared of our Prime Minister Scott Morrison this year, adding a zeitgeisty, if incomplete, fast fact: “You know, titanium’s much tougher than steel.” Continue Reading →

Exclusive: U.S. Army will fund rare earths plant for weapons development – by Ernest Scheyder (Reuters U.S. – December 11, 2019)

(Reuters) – The U.S. Army plans to fund construction of rare earths processing facilities, part of an urgent push by Washington to secure domestic supply of the minerals used to make military weapons and electronics, according to a government document seen by Reuters.

The move would mark the first financial investment by the U.S. military into commercial-scale rare earths production since World War Two’s Manhattan Project built the first atomic bomb.

It comes after President Donald Trump earlier this year ordered the military to update its supply chain for the niche materials, warning that reliance on other nations for the strategic minerals could hamper U.S. defenses. Continue Reading →

Trudeau government does spadework on minerals crucial to future economy – by Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press/Financial Post – December 3, 2019)

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is digging for intelligence on the role Canada’s mining sector could play in providing the United States and other key trading partners with crucial minerals and metals — from cobalt to tellurium — considered building blocks of the new economy.

Natural Resources Canada plans to hire a British firm to provide pricing forecasts and analysis of global supply and demand between 2020 and 2030 for about two dozen vital minerals used in products like solar cells, permanent magnets and rechargeable batteries.

The move comes as Canada works on a joint plan with the United States to ensure reliable access to these minerals and foster future competitiveness of the U.S. and Canadian mining industries. Continue Reading →

Glencore’s Glasenberg says successor could be in place next year – by Barbara Lewis and Eric Onstad (Reuters Canada – December 3, 2019)

LONDON (Reuters) – Glencore could announce a new chief executive next year once a new management team is in place, its current boss told an investor meeting on Tuesday as the commodities giant laid out its priorities for 2020.

The mining and trading company faces a challenging year as it contends with problems on multiple fronts, from a series of mine fatalities and climate politics to a continuing U.S. Department of Justice investigation and difficulties in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Speculation about Ivan Glasenberg’s departure has intensified after he said last year that he expected to retire in between three and five years. Asked for detail on a planned management transition, Glasenberg said there was “a good crop of people” but did not offer names. Continue Reading →

US must counter China’s stranglehold on key minerals – by Matthew Kandrach (Casper Star Tribune – November 29, 2019)

Matthew Kandrach is the president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.

The element cobalt isn’t something most people think of every day. And yet cobalt is critically important for the production of cell phones, wind turbines, and satellites. It’s also a key part of the lithium-ion battery — making it an essential resource for the emerging green revolution.

Right now, much of the world’s cobalt comes from one source — the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC produces roughly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt. Unfortunately, much of that mining is done by child labor, with revenues that often end up in the hands of autocratic rulers and warlords.

As global competition for resources like cobalt continues to grow, one country has moved quickly to dominate the field. Thanks to heavy investment in the DRC, China now owns much of the world’s cobalt production. In fact, China’s heavy investment in both copper and cobalt has given it a strong stake in global metal and mineral supplies. Continue Reading →

Denmark says Greenland is a national security concern as ‘great powers’ circle – by Nick Allen (The Telegraph – November 30, 2019)

Denmark has made Greenland a top national security priority after Donald Trump expressed an interest in buying the territory. Mr Trump raised the possibility of purchasing the vast land mass for the United States earlier this year, due to its abundant natural resources and potential future logistical value.

Mette Frederiksen, the Danish prime minister responded at the time that it was not for sale, leading to a diplomatic spat in which Mr Trump called her “nasty” and cancelled a trip to Denmark.

Now, Denmark’s foreign and military intelligence agency has warned of increasing tensions over Greenland involving major powers, including the US, China and Russia, and highlighted the threat ahead of others like terrorism and cybercrime. Continue Reading →

The World’s Biggest Battery Recycler Is Helping Fuel The Future of Cars (Bloomberg News – November 26, 2019)

(Bloomberg) — The former university professor leading one of the firms most crucial to the future of transport has a warning for anyone eyeing his patch.

“I want to tell everyone who wants to enter this market: don’t do it, you are wasting your money,” said Xu Kaihua, chairman of Chinese battery metals maker GEM Co. “Only the top five will survive.”

The firm Xu founded in Shenzhen in 2001 has adopted an expansive business model that’s made it central to supply chains stretching from the cobalt and nickel mines of Africa and Southeast Asia to the motors of Volkswagen and BMW cars. GEM’s diverse footprint includes a plant in Indonesia that will allow it to avoid that nation’s export ban on nickel, a key raw material. And, the company is already the world’s biggest recycler of metals from used batteries. Continue Reading →

OPINION: Producing More Valuable Minerals in the U.S. – by J. Winston Porter (November 20, 2019)

A large majority of important minerals used in America are imported from other countries, but the United States needs to produce more minerals in our country. In addition, now some want to obtain minerals via recycling in America.

Although the idea of recycling has obvious appeal, it simply isn’t easy or inexpensive. As for this issue, about 85 percent of all used automobiles are recycled, providing large quantities of iron and steel. And other recycling comes from scrap lead, copper and aluminum.

But even with significant political and financial incentives, recycling’s contribution to the supply of critically important minerals like indium, manganese, cobalt, cesium and vanadium has not budged. The result is that we are heavily dependent on imports of key minerals from overseas locations. Continue Reading →

Copper, cobalt miners urged to do more to fight DRC corruption, child labour practices – by David McKay ( – November 18, 2019)


COMPANIES mining copper and cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been urged to do more to fight corruption and child labour, said Bloomberg News citing a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD).

Companies should be “proactive about addressing risks, for example by improving working conditions in artisanal mining or taking action to address corruption in their supply chains,” Ben Katz, co-author of the OECD report, said in a statement.

Citing the US Geological Survey, the newswire said the DRC was the world’s largest cobalt producer and the fifth largest producer of copper. As demand for the two minerals has soared with the growth of the electronic and electric-vehicle industries, so have worries about the conditions under which they are mined, it said. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: International Conference in Ottawa: Is Responsible Sourcing of Metals for Green Transition Possible?

(Ottawa, November 15, 2019 – recirculated) The environmental, social, and climate impacts of mining metals to meet the demands of the booming renewable energy economy are the focus of an international conference opening today in Ottawa. The non-profit group MiningWatch Canada aims to highlight the high environmental and social costs of mining and identify ways to reduce demand for newly mined metals as the world moves urgently away from fossil fuel energy.

The group says the impacts of mining are inadequately addressed as it is, and already acute impacts on communities and ecosystems will be dramatically worsened by projected manyfold increases in demand for metals and minerals to produce wind turbines, photovoltaic cells, electric vehicles and batteries, etc. that can only be partially offset by increased recycling and materials efficiency.

“We are already seeing serious damage to forests, watersheds, farmland, and people’s livelihoods and security from mining for these ‘energy metals’,” says MiningWatch communications coordinator Jamie Kneen. “We have to recognise that there are real limits to extraction. Communities and ecosystems alike are already struggling to deal with mining’s short and long term effects, and they are both signalling that they can’t sacrifice more.” Continue Reading →

China in focus as West debates critical minerals challenge – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – November 13, 2019)

LONDON (Reuters) – Western powers will attend talks in Brussels next week on curbing China’s dominance of rare earths and other critical resources and EU officials will present their vision to create entire green supply chains.

The talks, on Nov. 19, have taken place annually for much of this decade, bringing together diplomats and industry representatives from the European Union, Japan and United States.

They have yet to weaken China’s power, especially over rare earths, and global trade tensions aggravate the situation. In a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was not possible to “guide or monopolize” a certain sector or market in a closely connected world. Continue Reading →

Commentary: The collapse of American rare earth mining — and lessons learned – by Jeffery A. Green (Defense News – November 12, 2019)

Out in the Mojave Desert in California lies the Mountain Pass mine, once the world’s foremost supplier of valuable rare earth minerals — 17 elements deemed critical to modern society. In an age where China controls 80 percent of the global output of these minerals, it is strange to believe that a once-dominant source sits within the United States. Stranger still is the tale of how this mine came to supply the Chinese rare earths industry.

In 1952, Mountain Pass opened. First explored as a uranium deposit, it soon supplied rare earths for the electronic needs of the Cold War economy. Until the 1990s, it stood alone as the only major source of rare earths worldwide.

By 2002, however, the mine was defunct. In the eyes of the U.S. government and major manufacturers, it no longer made sense to acquire rare earths from a U.S. source subject to stringent environmental regulations. Continue Reading →

China Sets Record Rare-Earth Mining Quota as Demand Rises (Bloomberg News – November 11, 2019)

China set its annual rare-earth mining quota at the highest on record as domestic demand for the strategic materials, used in everything from electric vehicles to military hardware, increases.

The quota for six dominant producers, including China Northern Rare Earth Group High-Tech Co., was set at 132,000 tons for 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on Friday. That compares with 120,000 tons in 2018 and is the highest in data going back to 2014.

The higher quota follows requests from major companies in the industry to allow more production to meet rising demand, said Zhang Rui, an analyst at state-run researcher Beijing Antaike Information Development Co. Continue Reading →

Global cobalt mine output growth forecast to slow in 2020: Antaike (Reuters U.S. – November 6, 2019)

YICHANG, China (Reuters) – Global cobalt mine output will increase at a slower rate next year than in 2019, providing some support for price of the chemical used in batteries for electric vehicles, research house Antaike said on Wednesday.

Cobalt production in 2020 forecast to rise by 5,000 tonnes, Antaike nickel analyst Joy Kong said. That would be a 3.5% increase to the 143,600 tonnes produced this year which would be less than the 2019 expected growth rate of 6.3%, she said.

Antaike predicts standard grade cobalt prices in 2020 at around $18 per pound, or around $40,000 a tonne, up from an average of $16 to $16.50 per pound in 2019, as private mining declines, Kong said in a presentation at the China International Nickel and Cobalt Forum in Yichang. Continue Reading →

Cobalt market to avoid shortage despite Congo mine closure: Nornickel – by Anastasia Lyrchikova and Polina Devitt (Reuters U.S. – October 29, 2019)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Cobalt supply will remain robust despite a price slide that has already led to the closure of a major mine, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel said, as most is produced as a byproduct of more buoyant metals like nickel and copper.

Prices of the battery metal surged in 2017 and 2018 on expectations for an electric vehicle revolution, but have fallen this year due to excessive supply and the impact of the U.S.-China trade war.

They are now down 60% from their spring 2018 peak. In August global mining and trade giant Glencore said it would shutter its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo from year-end for two years due to low cobalt prices. Continue Reading →