China plays long game on cobalt and electric batteries – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – May 25, 2016)

Chinese company’s acquisition of Congo cobalt mine has repercussions for car industry

As China Molybdenum announced it was buying one of Africa’s largest copper mines earlier this month one thing was soon clear: the acquisition was about far more than the red metal.

The $2.65bn deal, the biggest private investment in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s history, is instead designed to secure China’s supplies of cobalt, a once niche raw material that is crucial to developing batteries for electric cars.

The purchase of the Tenke mine, which contains one of the world’s largest known deposits of copper and cobalt, shows how Chinese companies are now moving to take a dominant position in battery materials as the country prepares to shift its economy from heavily polluting industries.

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CMOC’s investment in Tenke Fungurume and Kokkola is set to further increase China’s hold on global cobalt – by Edward Spencer (CRU – May 18, 2016)

Chinese companies have been seeking to diversify their portfolios for a number of years now, unafraid to invest large amounts in overseas and upstream operations. Last week China Molybdenum Co., Ltd. announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary CMOC Limited had entered into a definitive agreement with Freeport-McMoRan to acquire its 56% share of the Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine in the DRC.

The US$2.65B acquisition is China Moly’s second major deal within two weeks, having agreed to buy Anglo American’s niobium and phosphates business on 28th April for US$1.5B.

While many have focused on the phosphate and copper components of these deals, much of the value of these assets lays in their minor metal associations – namely niobium and cobalt. On completion of the acquisitions CRU estimates that China Moly will be the world’s second largest producer of both ferroniobium and cobalt in addition to being the fourth largest producer of molybdenum.

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Why Lithium Isn’t the Big Worry for Lithium-Ion Batteries – by Jason Deign (Green Teck – June 23, 2015)

Why Lithium Isn’t the Big Worry for Lithium-Ion Batteries – Cobalt and nickel bottlenecks are a much bigger threat.

Lithium-ion battery production is more likely to be constrained by cobalt or nickel supplies than by lithium availability, experts believe.

Li-ion battery makers use both metals in greater quantities than lithium, which has been the subject of significant supply concerns as battery production ramps up. In fact, none of these minerals are worryingly scarce in nature.

What troubles some observers, however, is that cobalt and nickel are susceptible to greater supply-chain risks because of the countries that control the resources.

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Can Elon Musk and Tesla save the mining industry? – by Andrew Critchlow (The Telegraph – May 25, 2015)

New generation of batteries will make cobalt, lithium and nickel essential investments in commodities

When it comes to investing in the future of commodities forget about resources such as iron ore and coal, which dominated the industrial economies of the old world order. The new currency for smart commodity investors will be cobalt, which is poised to play a growing role in everyone’s life if the vision of American billionaire Elon Musk to have a Tesla Motors battery powering homes comes to fruition.

Mr Musk, the force behind Tesla electric cars and Space X, wants to make his revolutionary next generation battery packs on walls a standard fixture for every household along with a rechargeable car parked in the garage and a solar panel on the roof. Tesla is in the process of building a giant new battery production facility in Nevada known as the Gigafactory to meet expected demand from this revolution in domestic energy supply and storage.

Tesla plans to produce two types of battery at the facility that is taking shape in the desert and so far the exact specification of the lithium-ion power units is being kept a close secret.

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The Commodity That No One Knows About But Everybody Wants to Buy – by Thomas Biesheuvel and Jesse Riseborough (Bloomberg News – May 18, 2016)

The world’s mines and steel plants got so devalued during the commodity slump that some were just given away by owners struggling to cut losses or debt. But there’s at least one metal that’s been attracting a lot of attention.

Niobium — named for a Greek goddess who became a symbol of the tragic mourning mother — is used to produce stronger, lighter steel for industrial pipes and aircraft parts. It is mined in only three places on Earth, and the price of every kilogram is seven times higher than copper.

China Molybdenum Co. outmaneuvered at least 15 companies last month to purchase Anglo American Plc’s niobium and phosphate unit in Brazil, agreeing to pay $1.5 billion, or 50 percent more than the valuation by some analysts. The buying frenzy that included Vale SA, Apollo Global Management LLC and X2 Resources showcased the growing appeal of a market that may be worth $4 billion for a soft, silvery metal many experts don’t know much about.

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More Chinese resource acquisitions on the way – by Lara Smith ( – May 17, 2016)

Lara Smith is the Founder and Managing Director of Core Consultants in June 2009. Core Consultants are committed to supplying high-quality commodity market research, analysis and valuations to global institutions.

China Molybdenum (CMOC) has long earned its reputation as a highly acquisitive company. In 2015, it made its intentions known that it would pump around $2bn into acquiring mining assets outside of China. Traditionally a molybdenum and tungsten producer, CMOC has targeted copper in recent years, paying $820m for Rio Tinto’s Northparkes copper mine in New South Wales in 2013 and bidding for Barrick’s Zadivar mine in 2015.

Earlier this year the company revealed that it had earmarked $4bn to acquire assets following its agreement to purchase Anglo’s Brazilian niobium and phosphate operations, which is regarded as a diversification from the more volatile metals market.

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Cobalt: The Bass Player in the Tesla Band – by Peter Clausi ( – May 16, 2016)

Numbers are numbers and facts are facts: we make serious money when we figure out how those statistics could affect the future. For the past year, we’ve been haranguing about the global shortage of cobalt. We’re not alone in this. See John Petersen‘s series of beautifully analytical data-driven articles and Chris Ecclestone‘s thesis. The key facts you need to know:

1. roughly 97% of the world’s supply of cobalt is produced as a by-product of nickel or copper production. Fact;

2. the spot prices for copper and nickel have plummeted to and have stayed at levels that make many deposits uneconomic. Fact;

3. as a result of these economics, the owners of some of those copper and nickel mines are closing the mines, putting those mines on care and maintenance in a Hail Mary that someday the commodity price will recover enough to someday make these mines economic. Fact;

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Mine Tales: U.S. Four Corners area was great producer of vanadium – by William Ascarza (Arizona Daily Star – May 16, 2016)

William Ascarza is an archivist, historian and author of seven books available for purchase online and at select bookstores. 

Principal vanadium production in Arizona has come from the Four Corners area in northeastern Arizona and Mammoth located in southeastern Arizona.

The Four Corners area is the far greater producer, having accounted for 90 percent of Arizona vanadium output from vanadium-uranium deposits in sandstone. The ore averages 1 percent or more of vanadium, making it enough to mine at a profit. Several notable locations include the Morrison Formation in the Carrizo Mountains, Chilchinbito areas and the Chinle Formation in the Monument Valley area of Apache and Navajo counties.

Considered a byproduct of uranium mining, vanadium is a metal element highly sought after because of its application as a strengthening agent for steel. It has also been used in nonferrous alloys and chemicals.

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Here’s a Way Out of Our Rare-Earths Mess – by James Kennedy (Defense – May 12, 2016)

James Kennedy is president of ThREE Consulting, Thorium & Rare Earth Elements, Mining Minerals and Metals (ThREEM3). He is also a consultant to the U.S. government, financial, mining and energy industry on strategic issues related to rare earths and thorium within the U.S. regulatory environment. China controls substances so valuable that the Pentagon dares not act. It’s up to the Senate now.

The Pentagon recently received what amounts to a grade of F on its efforts to ensure that its suppliers can continue to obtain the rare-earth metals that make possible many of today’s advanced weapons and other technologies. After nearly two decades of Defense Department fecklessness, it’s up to lawmakers to act.

In stark terms, a Government Accountability Office report described how defense officials have failed to meet, and even to identify, their legal and national security obligations with regard to this “bedrock” national-security concern. Instead, defense officials have repeatedly given the all-clear signal to Congress and two administrations.

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Tesla Battery Drive Lures China Molybdenum Into Cobalt – by Danielle Bochove (Bloomberg News – May 9, 2016)

China Molybdenum Co. is the latest company to bet on the future of electric cars with its plans to acquire cobalt assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Monday, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. agreed to sell its controlling stake in the Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine to CMOC, as the Luoyang, China-based company is known, for $2.65 billion. CMOC is also negotiating to buy Freeport’s interests in other cobalt assets.

The deal marks the Chinese company’s entry into cobalt, one of the specialty metals used in rechargeable batteries. The battery market is expanding as more consumers turn to electric cars made by companies such as Tesla Motors Inc. and look to store renewable energy to power appliances when there’s little wind or sunshine.

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Lithium-ion Batteries – The Cobalt Cliff Is Upon Us – by John Peterson ( – April 8, 2016)

I had a very enlightening conversation on Wednesday morning with the experts at Darton Commodities Limited, a U.K.-based metals trader that specializes in cobalt and serves as an intermediary between cobalt producers and European users. A couple days before the call, Darton sent me a copy of their 42 page “2015-2016 Cobalt Market Review.” It was one of the most impressive and data rich industry overviews I’ve ever seen.

Our wide ranging hour and a half conversation confirmed my developing thesis that cobalt is an immense supply chain risk that lithium-ion battery manufacturers and users have blithely dismissed in a headlong rush to build production capacity for markets that may not develop, or may develop more slowly than anyone anticipates. It left me more convinced than ever that my initial risk assessments were understated.

The Cobalt Cliff is upon us and there is no reasonable probability that the battery industry will have the muscle to outbid other essential industries that must have cobalt to make far more valuable products.

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Plans move forward for rare earth elements mine on Labrador coast (CBC News Newfoundland and Labrador – March 14, 2016)

Search Minerals, a mining and exploration company, is making plans for a rare earth elements mine on the southeast coast of Labrador.

The company, based in both British Columbia and Labrador, discovered the Port Hope Simpson Rare Earth Element District, a belt in the area about 70 kilometres long and up to eight kilometres wide.

are earth elements are used to make such things as batteries, electronics and magnets. Search Minerals president Greg Andrews said the company has received a preliminary economic assessment on its “Foxtrot” project, in the Fox Harbour area, to see if it’s economic to move into production.

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Cobalt: the backstory of a technology metal – by Robin Bromby ( – March 11, 2016)

It has certainly been cobalt’s week. John Petersen has authored two imposing posts (PT 1, PT 2). Now Christopher Ecclestone has underlined the worries that should be concerning Tesla and other end-users about the possibility that the supplies of lithium and cobalt on which they are depending for their lithium-ion batteries might just not be there when they put in their orders (and he cites the fact that London Metal Exchange warehouses have just 614 tonnes of cobalt in their care).

This is a very important story for InventorIntel given that cobalt is being seen increasingly as a technology metal and a “green” one, the latter reflecting its battery applications.

There is an additional consideration: the availability of cobalt for batteries is complicated by (a) the looming shortage of the metal and (b) the competing demand for it.

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NEWS RELEASE: Quebec Government’s Plan Nord, the SDBJ and the ARBJ to Support Development of Separation Technology

Highlights of the news release:

  • Innord to receive a total of $500,000 from the Plan Nord, the SDBJ and the ARBJ.
  • GéoMégA to hold 96.1% of Innord after receiving all the funds.
  • Management of GéoMégA to attend PDAC 2016 from March 6 to 9 at booth #2642.

Montreal, March 3, 2016 – Geomega Resources Inc. (“GéoMégA” or the “Company”) (TSX.V: GMA) announces the support of the Quebec Government, as part of the Plan Nord program (“Plan Nord”), and of the Réseau Capital Baie-James, specifically the Société de développement de la Baie-James (“SDBJ) and the Administration régionale Baie-James (“ARBJ”), by investing in the share capital of Innord Inc. (“Innord”) to develop its proprietary separation process of rare earth elements (“REE”).

With this injection of additional funds, Innord, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GéoMégA, will receive a total of $500,000 from the Fonds du Plan Nord, the SDBJ and the ARBJ.

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Extracting rare-earth elements from coal could soon be economical in U.S. – by Liam Jackson (Penn State News – February 2, 2016)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The U.S. could soon decrease its dependence on importing valuable rare-earth elements that are widely used in many industries, according to a team of Penn State and U.S. Department of Energy researchers who found a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract these metals from coal byproducts.

Rare-earth elements are a set of seventeen metals — such as scandium, yttrium, lanthanum and cerium — necessary to produce high-tech equipment used in health care, transportation, electronics and numerous other industries.

They support more than $329 billion of economic output in North America, according to the American Chemistry Council, and the United States Geological Survey expects worldwide demand for REEs to grow more than 5 percent annually through 2020. China produces more than 85 percent of the world’s rare-earth elements, and the U.S. produces the second most at just over 6 percent, according to the USGS.

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