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

As China Adjusts for “True Cost” of Rare Earths, What Does It Mean for Decarbonization? – by Hongqiao Liu (New Security – March 21, 2017)

Known as the “vitamins of industry,” rare earths refer to a cluster of minerals widely used in green technologies such as wind turbines, rechargeable batteries, and electric vehicles. Rare earth elements embedded in these products keep them light, efficient, and affordable. They’re essential to the decarbonization of the global economy envisioned in the Paris Climate Agreement, agreed to by 192 countries in 2015. And we may soon face a significant shortage, due in no small part to changes in China.

The U.S. Department of Energy and European Union have both issued warnings of impending rare earths shortages. Medium and heavy rare earths, mined almost exclusively in China at the moment, top the list with the highest risk of shortage.

Years of pollution suffered as the world’s dominant supplier of rare earths have taken their toll on China’s soil, water, and people. In some cases, ponds of untreated tailing slurry have led to severe radioactive contamination. As the government begins cracking down on illegal mining and black markets and increasing environmental regulations, operation and compliance costs are going up. Continue Reading →

Cobalt’s meteoric rise at risk from Congo’s Katanga – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – March 14, 2017)

Reopening of mothballed mine and uncertainty over China demand weighs on metal’s price

Hedge funds and speculators betting that the electric vehicle revolution will drive prices of battery material cobalt into the stratosphere could be wrongfooted.

Next year Glencore, the world’s biggest producer of the bluish metal, is due to bring the Katanga mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo back on line after a $430m overhaul of its processing system. The operation has the potential to add as much 22,000 tonnes of cobalt to a market with annual output of around 100,000 tonnes.

That could bring the price of cobalt, which has surged 135 per cent this year, back to earth with a bump. Goldman Sachs analysts say the resumption of production at Katanga “will significantly change the supply dynamics” for cobalt and ensure the market is well supplied up to the end of 2019. Continue Reading →

The richest seam: Mining companies have dug themselves out of a hole (The Economist – March 11, 2017)

Electric vehicles and batteries are expected to create huge demand for copper and cobalt

FOR mining investors there is something sinfully alluring about Glencore, an Anglo-Swiss metals conglomerate. It is the world’s biggest exporter of coal, a singularly unfashionable commodity. It goes where others fear to tread, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has an unsavoury reputation for violence and corruption. It recently navigated sanctions against Russia to strike a deal with Rosneft, the country’s oil champion.

Yet Glencore could still acquire a halo for itself. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of copper and the biggest of cobalt, much of which comes from its investment in the DRC. These are vital ingredients for clean-tech products and industries, notably electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries.

The potential of “green” metals and minerals, which along with copper and cobalt include nickel, lithium and graphite, is adding to renewed excitement about investing in mining firms as they emerge from the wreckage of a $1trn splurge of over-investment during the China-led commodities supercycle, which began in the early 2000s. Continue Reading →

Greenland closer to building world’s fifth-largest uranium mine – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – March 13, 2017)

It would also be the world’s second-biggest rare earths operation.

Greenland may soon start building the world’s fifth-largest uranium mine and second-biggest rare earths operation, which could fuel independence dreams in the island, an “autonomous administrative division” within Denmark since 2009.

The proposed open pit mine in the southern town of Kvanefjeld is expected to process over 100 million tonnes of ore in the coming decades, helping Greenland to diversified its economy. According to Danish Radio, it would also alleviate the island’s dependence on a locked Danish subsidy of 3.2 billion DKK (about $500 million), which constitutes about half of its budget.

But Greenland Minerals and Energy’s (ASX:GGG) project, which would have an annual processing capacity of 3 million tonnes of ore a year and employ at least 325 locals, is facing opposition from those who don’t want to see major landscape and environmental changes. Continue Reading →

[Cobalt] Glencore Is on to a Winner With This Obscure Metal – by Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – March 8, 2017)

Cobalt is having a moment in the spotlight. Historically a minor byproduct of copper and nickel mining, the metal is a key ingredient for lithium-ion batteries and now a growing money maker for Glencore Plc.

In the past eight months, prices more than doubled on speculation that supply won’t keep up with demand for batteries in electric cars. Glencore, the largest cobalt producer, plans to about double output by 2018, and only coal, copper and zinc offer more of an earnings boost when prices rise.

Cobalt, which has been in oversupply for years, was often treated as an afterthought at the copper and nickel mines where it’s found. Now, demand for the once obscure metal that’s mined largely in the Democratic Republic of Congo is soaring as it graduates from mobiles to larger batteries in electric vehicles and homes. Continue Reading →

Meet Dorsen, 8, who mines cobalt to make your smartphone work – by Alex Crawford (Sky – February 2017)

A Sky News investigation has found children as young as four working in Congolese mines where cobalt is extracted for smartphones.

The mineral is an essential component of batteries for smartphones and laptops, making billions for multinationals such as Apple and Samsung, yet many of those working to extract it are earning as little as 8p a day in desperately dangerous conditions.

With little regulation requiring companies to trace their cobalt supply lines, and most of the world’s cobalt coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the chances are your smartphone contains a battery with cobalt mined by children in the central African nation. Continue Reading →

Electric car boom spurs investor scramble for cobalt – by (Reuters U.S. – February 14, 2017)

LONDON – Investors are buying up physical cobalt anticipating that shortages of the metal, a key component of lithium-ion batteries used in electrical cars, will spur prices to their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.

Prices for cobalt metal have climbed nearly 50 percent since September to five-year peaks around $19 a lb as stricter emissions controls boost demand for electric vehicles, especially in China, struggling with ruinous pollution levels in some cities. (For a graphic on how Lithium-ion battery works click

Consultants CRU Group say electric car and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales could hit 4.4 million in 2021 and more than six million by 2025, from 1.1 million last year. By 2020, 75 percent of lithium-ion batteries will contain cobalt, whose properties allow electric cars to extend their range between charges, according to eCobalt Solutions, which produces battery grade cobalt salts. Continue Reading →

Russian-born billionaire has US rare earths mine in his sights – by Andrew Topf ( – February 14, 2017)

Assets at Molycorp’s Mountain Pass to be auctioned in March

It’s the kind of announcement that will raise hackles among U.S. nationalists and especially those concerned about the loss of control of America’s strategic mineral resources.

According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal (requires subscription), Russian-born billionaire Vladimir Iorich is connected to a Swiss investment fund that has put a bid on the Mountain Pass Mine formerly run by Molycorp before it was forced into bankruptcy. The news outlet states that Pala Investments, established by Iorich in 2007, is part of a buyout group that bid $40 million for the mine’s assets.

A former member of Forbes’ list of the world’s richest billionaires, Forbes says that Iorich is a Russian-born German citizen who made his fortune as a large shareholder in Russian mining and steel company Mechel AOA, run by Russian billionaire Igor Zyuzin. Continue Reading →

Glencore Buys Out Billionaire With $1 Billion Congo Mining Deal – by Franz Wild, Tom Wilson and Jesse Riseborough (Bloomberg News – February 14, 2017)

(Bloomberg) — Glencore Plc agreed to a $960 million deal that will boost ownership of two giant Congolese cobalt and copper mines, and sever its ties with controversial Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler.

For Glencore, the deal achieves two things: greater control of key assets at a time of booming copper and cobalt prices and a parting of ways from Gertler after his business in the Democratic Republic of Congo and relationship with President Joseph Kabila attracted scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Glencore will pay Fleurette Group, a company owned by Gertler’s family trust, $534 million cash after all debts are paid, the company said in a statement on Monday. The assets include a 31 percent stake in Mutanda Mining, the world’s biggest cobalt mine, and a 10.3 percent holding in Katanga Mining Ltd., which operates a nearby copper and cobalt mine. Continue Reading →

[Strategic Minerals] We have a national security crisis: Let’s do nothing – by John Moody (Fox News – February 8, 2017)

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News.

Can the United States do anything to reverse a dangerous dependence on crucial mineral supplies that put our future military security in the hands of China? We may be about to find out.

The challenge to our future security was outlined in a grim, largely overlooked report from the U.S. Geological Survey. In stark terms, it demonstrated that the U.S. is 100 percent reliant on foreign producers for at least 20 elements and minerals, some of them of strategic importance to our military. The most common source: China.

As Bellwether noted last week, a group of 17 materials, known collectively as rare earths, are produced almost exclusively by China. That’s the country President Trump has labelled a currency manipulator and trade cheat and which he has vowed to bring to heel in future bilateral negotiations. Continue Reading →

China’s secret Trump card: Could Beijing deprive our military of critical defense components? – by John Moody (Fox News – February 3, 2017)

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News.

Candidate Donald Trump promised to bring jobs back to America, rebuild our military, and on trade get tough with China, which he said was “raping” our economy. President Trump may find his administration the victim of exactly the job-exporting policies he railed against and face the very real possibility that China could cut off U.S. access to 17 rare materials vital to our advanced aircraft and guided missile systems.

Among major U.S. military projects imperiled by a potential China squeeze play is a $340 billion Navy program to create new, Columbia-class nuclear submarines, and a new electro-magnetic aircraft launch (EMAL) system, which the Navy hopes to use for catapults that launch planes from aircraft carriers.

The 17 materials, known as rare earth elements (REE), are essential to the production of the high-performance permanent magnets used in both those systems, as well as in motors and missiles, GPS systems, satellite imaging, night vision goggles, and consumer products like smartphones and flat television screens. Continue Reading →

The US rare earth vulnerability and mammoth battery supply disconnect – by Christopher Ecclestone ( – February 2, 2017)

The most startling act of cognitive dissonance in the mining space in this day and age is amongst those investors and analysts that enthuse about Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite and yet cannot raise an eyebrow for Rare Earths.

The thesis is rather simple. If you believe that we are on the cusp (or indeed already in) of a massive surge in adoption of EVs and HEVs and therefore the batteries for these vehicles (primarily the Li-Ion battery format) will rule the Earth then how can one not also posit that the type of engine that dominates the same vehicles will have a proportionate need for the Rare Earth magnets produced from Neodymium and Praseodymium.

If one is disturbed by potential shortages of Lithium and Cobalt, then why no sleepless nights about Rare Earths? It seems that concern is rising but not amongst investors. Then again how real is any professed concern if it doesn’t lead to action? Continue Reading →

How Does the Hottest Metals Trade Work? First, Find Storage – by Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – January 24, 2017)

Pala Investments Ltd. fund manager Anthony Milewski figures one of the best payoffs from a global boom in electric vehicles will be a hard, gray metal that so far has drawn little interest from investors. That’s why he’s stockpiling it.

During the past year, the Switzerland-based mining fund has been buying cobalt, an essential element in the lithium-ion batteries powering Tesla Motors Inc. cars as well as all sorts of mobile devices. Even after a 50 percent surge in prices last year, Milewski and other bulls expect more gains as companies like General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG make their own electronic vehicles.

But cobalt investing isn’t all that simple. There’s very little trading in futures contracts offered by the London Metal Exchange, which can mean increased volatility risk. Continue Reading →

Electric cars spark lithium, nickel and cobalt mining boom – by Marcus Leroux (The Australian – December 28, 2016)

The China boom has come and gone but miners say a new scramble for resources looms, triggered by the dawn of the electric car age.

The motor industry is placing huge bets on electric cars becoming mainstream over the next decade. Miners have been busily looking under the bonnets and inside batteries and decided that they will have to dig up a lot more lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt.

Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer controlled by Elon Musk, has said that it would require today’s entire worldwide production of lithium ion batteries to meet demand for its target of half a million cars in the second half of the decade. Continue Reading →

No cobalt, no Tesla? – by Sebastien Gandon (Tech – January 1, 2016)

The battery industry currently uses 42 percent of global cobalt production, a critical metal for Lithium-ion cells. The remaining 58 percent is used in diverse industrial and military applications (super alloys, catalysts, magnets, pigments…) that rely exclusively on the material.

Approximately 97 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt comes as a by-product of nickel or copper (mostly out of Africa). Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Lundin agreed to sell to Chinese players their respective stakes in the Tenke Fungurume mine, one of the largest known cobalt sources, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tesla has stated that the cobalt it needs will be sourced exclusively in North America, but the math doesn’t seem to add up. Is Tesla doomed? Not necessarily… Continue Reading →