Is child labor the price for e-cars? – by Helle Jeppesen (Deutsche Welle – August 23, 2017)

http://www.dw.com/en/

Whether in cars, laptops or smartphones, cobalt is in nearly all batteries. The biggest supplier is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where human rights are often violated in the mines.

Young men, armed with only torchlight and tools climb down in a deep, dark hole, without helmet or security gear. The path becomes even smaller as they go further down in the unsecured tunnel. To remove the cobalt, the young miners use chisels and hand hooks and then place the gem rocks into bags, which are then pulled up by another miner above ground.

The rights group Amnesty International witnessed this scene during a research trip in Kasulu, the former Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These mine workers are known in the DRC as Creuseurs, loosely translated as the diggers.

The mining work is divided among everyone. Men dig for the rocks in the tunnel, women wash the rocks in the river, and children are tasked with separating the cobalt from the rock with their bare hands.

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Hunt for Next Electric-Car Commodity Quickens as Prices Soar – by Laura Millan Lombrana and Susanne Barton (Bloomberg News – August 23, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Niche metal cobalt is leaving bigger names like copper and lithium in its dust, triggering a hunt for new deposits from Idaho to Chile.

As one of the key components in the new breed of rechargeable batteries and with supply dominated by the Democratic Republic of Congo, prices have surged at four times the pace of major metals in the past year.

That’s caught the attention of governments, explorers and money managers, with annual demand set to increase 34 percent until 2026 as electric cars gain a bigger share of the global auto fleet, according to CRU Group.

Authorities in Chile, the top copper-producing nation, are embarking on a fact-finding mission with a view to restart cobalt production after a more than seven-decade hiatus. First Cobalt Corp. is merging with two other firms to create what it calls the world’s largest explorer of the mineral.

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OPINION: Switch to Renewables Won’t End the Geopolitics of Energy – by Meghan L. O’Sullivan (Bloomberg News – August 21, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Countries that dominate the export of rare-earth minerals will be the petrostates of tomorrow.

In another sign that the age of fossil fuels is waning, the California State Senate has passed a bill to commit the state to use 100 percent renewable energy for power by 2045. Other states and cities — including Massachusetts, Chicago and Atlanta — intend to make similar switches. Proponents highlight a bevy of ways in which the Age of Renewables will improve our lives: lower carbon emissions, cheaper electricity rates, new abilities to bring power to impoverished nations … and independence from the economic and political entanglements of volatile global oil and gas markets.

Yes, there are many reasons to be enthusiastic about a shift toward renewables. Unfortunately, an escape from energy geopolitics is not likely to be among them.

Americans and Europeans in particular are familiar with the geopolitical downsides of a heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Even though energy embargoes are extremely rare, and hardly ever in the interest of the producers, the specter of the 1973 Arab oil remains. For many in Eastern Europe, the 2006 and 2009 gas cut-offs to Ukraine by Russia are an equally disturbing memory. Simply the threat of such actions carries political weight.

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Rare earths make electric comeback after bust – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – August 16, 2017)

https://www.ft.com/

After a spectacular bust in 2012 and several years of stagnant prices, rare earths mined mainly in China are making a comeback.

The expansion of electric vehicles and the renewable energy industry are partly behind this year’s renaissance for the 17 minerals, which are also used in smartphones and consumer electronics. Back in 2010 their soaring price caused such angst in Washington over China’s stranglehold on the market that the subject earned a subplot on the House of Cards TV series.

Additional mining capacity, as well as end users turning to alternatives, triggered a dramatic price collapse in 2012. Five years on and it is the role of rare earths in permanent magnets used in electric vehicles and wind turbines that has reignited interest.

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Vedanta explores ways to produce cobalt for batteries – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – August 15, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – Vedanta Resources (VED.L) is studying how to produce cobalt for use in batteries as the diversified miner becomes the latest company to seek exposure to an anticipated electric vehicle boom.

Tom Albanese, who steps down as CEO of Vedanta at the end of August, said the excitement around electric vehicles had prompted the company to looking at producing cobalt suitable for batteries from its Zambian copper mines, rather than just treating it as a copper by-product.

Vedanta is also betting on continued use of conventional fuel and in April completed the merger of its Indian metals and mining group Vedanta Limited (VDAN.NS) with oil and gas company Cairn India Ltd (CAIL.NS).

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Environmentalism: A Slippery Slope of Ignorance and Hypocrisy – by Saurabh Malkar (Modern Diplomacy – August 13, 2017)

http://moderndiplomacy.eu/

Perusing through my morning news digest, I came across an article from The Daily Mail featuring a story on the employment of child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

While I can be chillingly apathetic to social plight, especially, when it doesn’t concern my loved ones: something I impute to my upbringing in a third world country; I was deeply moved by this story, which shed light on the horrors of artisanal cobalt mining, employing children, working in dangerous conditions, with no safety measures, and being paid a pittance. The kicker, though, of this story was that much of this cobalt would go into battery packs that would be installed in electric cars marketed to gullible, do-gooders around the world.

But, why would one want to buy cars that take hours to refuel and can only be refueled at specific points, thus, imposing a massive time cost on their usage? These contraptions don’t match in utility to gasoline-powered cars, let alone surpassing them. No wonder governments around the world are trying to get consumers to buy electric cars through purchase subsidies and tax exemptions of all sorts.

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UPDATE 2-Glencore raises trading guidance, sees electric vehicles boosting demand – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – August 10, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) – Mining group Glencore raised earnings guidance for its trading business, citing higher commodity prices, and said on Thursday increased take-up of electric vehicles and demand for energy storage would boost demand for its products.

Following the commodities downturn of 2015-16, big miners have repaired their balance sheets to help position themselves for growth. Glencore has cut debt and also has a mix of assets that could help it benefit from an upsurge in electric cars.

The company raised full-year guidance for adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in its trading or marketing business by $100 million to a range of between $2.4 billion and $2.7 billion.

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Sprott Conference: Friedland pitches metals used in electric vehicles – by Lesley Stokes (Northern Miner – August 8, 2017)

Global mining news

VANCOUVER — The electric car revolution is accelerating, and so will the demand for metals that make them work, Robert Friedland, executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) said during a presentation at the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver in late July.

In what has become a recurring topic in his presentations, Friedland stated that continued rapid urbanization, combined with efforts to fight air pollution, will lead to the ramping up of electric vehicle production. And the demand for the metals needed to build them — including copper, platinum, palladium, zinc, nickel and cobalt — will rise as a result.

“This is an era of unprecedented change, it’s really happening,” Friedland said. “The handwriting is on the wall. For those of you who deny this phenomenon, you’re going to miss this massive disruption opening soon at a theatre near you.”

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Billionaire Who Made Killing on Cobalt Bets on Battery Fund – by Mark Burton and Javier Blas (Bloomberg News – August 8, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

An investment firm founded by Russian billionaire Vladimir Iorich is following its winning bet on cobalt this year by creating a $150 million fund to buy into metals used in electric cars.

Pala New Energy Metals will invest in cobalt, lithium, vanadium, rare earths, nickel and tin. Pala Investments Ltd. started the fund with its own money and cash from other investors. The firm previously snapped up cobalt, anticipating surging demand from automakers that more than doubled prices in the past year.

“We have been focused on the evolution of the battery chemistries and this has allowed us to invest early in different components of the battery,” Stephen Gill, managing partner at Zug, Switzerland-based Pala Investments, said in an interview. “We hope to continue to be ahead of the curve as technologies evolve.”

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Child miners aged four living a hell on Earth so YOU can drive an electric car: Awful human cost in squalid Congo cobalt mine that Michael Gove didn’t consider in his ‘clean’ energy crusade – by Barbara Jones (Daily Mail – August 5, 2017)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Picking through a mountain of huge rocks with his tiny bare hands, the exhausted little boy makes a pitiful sight. His name is Dorsen and he is one of an army of children, some just four years old, working in the vast polluted mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where toxic red dust burns their eyes, and they run the risk of skin disease and a deadly lung condition.

Here, for a wage of just 8p a day, the children are made to check the rocks for the tell-tale chocolate-brown streaks of cobalt – the prized ingredient essential for the batteries that power electric cars.

And it’s feared that thousands more children could be about to be dragged into this hellish daily existence – after the historic pledge made by Britain to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 and switch to electric vehicles.

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Electric-Car Revolution Shakes Up the Biggest Metals Markets – by Mark Burton and Eddie Van Der Walt (Bloomberg News – August 2, 2017)

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The revolution in electric vehicles set to upturn industries from energy to infrastructure is also creating winners and losers within the world’s biggest metals markets.

While some of the largest diversified miners like Glencore Plc argue fossil fuels such as coal and oil still play a crucial role supplying energy needs, they’ll also benefit the most from a move to electric cars, requiring more cobalt, lithium, copper, aluminum and nickel.

The outlook for greener transportation got a boost this year as the U.K. joined France and Norway in saying it would ban fossil-fuel car sales in coming decades. That’s as Volvo AB announced plans to abandon the combustion engine and Tesla Inc. unveiled its latest, cheaper Model 3. Such vehicles will outsell their petroleum-driven equivalents within two decades, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.

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Boom times ahead in the Cobalt camp: Staking rush, exploration activity puts famed mining camp back on the map – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – July 31, 2017)

https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

These are boom times in the Cobalt camp, but this is entirely new territory for Gino Chitaroni. “I’ve been in this business more than 30 years, I’ve never seen this before,” said the president of the Northern Prospectors Association.

The worldwide search for green-tech minerals, like cobalt, to feed the exploding electric vehicle and lithium battery market has put the historic silver mining district back in the spotlight for a largely discarded by-product metal.

“Eighteen months ago, if someone breathed the word cobalt, I would have thought they were on crack,” chuckles Chitaroni, a third-generation Cobalt-area miner and president of Polymet Labs in the town of Cobalt.

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Carmakers’ electric dreams depend on supplies of rare minerals – by Karl West (The Guardian – July 29, 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/

With mining of cobalt and other elements politically and ethically charged, the hunt for alternatives is on

Britain last week joined France in pledging to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an attempt to cut toxic vehicle emissions. The move to battery-powered vehicles has been a long time coming.

Environmental campaigners claim that charging cars and vans from the grid, like a laptop, is sure to be cleaner than petrol or diesel power. The government agrees and says it will invest more than £800m in driverless and clean technology, and a further £246m in battery technology research.

BMW plans to build a fully electric version of the Mini at Cowley in Oxford from 2019. Volvo announced earlier this month that from the same year, all its new models will have an electric motor.

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Cobalt explorer makes a move in historic camp: First Cobalt kicks off exploration program with promise of richer days ahead – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – July 28, 2017)

https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

Walking into a mining ghost town like Silver Centre is almost akin to experiencing what the first miners of the Cobalt camp’s famed Silver Rush faced at the turn of the last century.

But the focus this time is not on finding high-grade silver veins but exploring for cobalt, previously discarded as a waste material. For exploration crews, it’s like starting from scratch. “I grew up in Northern Ontario and crawled around mine sites all the time,” said Frank Santaguida, vice-president of exploration for First Cobalt Corp. “It’s surprising how quickly the land reclaims itself.”

His Toronto-based company has an option agreement with Canadian Silver Hunter to acquire 100 per cent of the former Keeley-Frontier silver and cobalt mine, a sprawling 2,100-hectare property, 25 kilometres south of the town of Cobalt.

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A rare earth cooperative for critical minerals could be just what America needs – by Ned Mamula and John Adams (The Hill – July 27, 2017)

http://thehill.com/

Dr. Ned Mamula is a geoscientist and associate fellow at the nonprofit R Street Institute in Washington, D.C. Brig. Gen. John Adams (U.S. Army, retired) is the president of Guardian Six Consulting, based in Gulf Breeze, Florida and Washington, D.C.

China is by far the world’s leading producer and exporter of minerals and metals. The nation also is proving increasingly expert at using its mineral resources to influence geopolitics. Even those minerals and metals that are mined outside China find their way there via the world’s most sophisticated supply-chain networks – all according to the design of Beijing’s leaders.

By contrast, the United States is 100 percent import-reliant on more than 20 key minerals and metals essential both to a healthy economy and our national security. Most of these are partially, if not totally supplied by China, which enjoys near complete market power over the all-important rare earth parts industry.

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