Cobalt is required in excess for various manufacturing process and it is often referred to as blue gold. Cobalt’s importance in the lithium battery industry and its limited supply has led to rise of the price every year. It was estimated that the demand for cobalt will increase drastically when the electric car market blooms and lithium batteries will start powering the world. More than 60% of global supply of cobalt is produced in Congo which has huge cobalt reserves. Various other cobalt mining nations around the globe are China, Canada, Russia, USA and Australia. Cobalt is mostly mined as a bi-product of nickel and copper. All the available lithium batteries will be fuelling the needs of the ever growing global population over the next few years. Actually, lithium battery is a chemical stew of lithium metal oxides such as phosphate, iron, manganese, spodumene, aluminium, tantalite, titanium, cobalt and lithium. Germany’s BMW car manufacturers and electronic gadget makers, such as Apple, are keen on discovering cobalt deposits or supplies around the world. It was observed that there is a multinational competition within the cobalt market due to a tough challenge for many products that are based on rechargeable batteries. Researchers are keen in discovering a metal to replace cobalt in batteries, instead of finding fresh supply of cobalt reserves for mining. The need for fresh cobalt may also lead to delay or even halt the new generation electric vehicles utility.
According to the study “Europe Cobalt Products Industry Situation and Prospects Research Report”, non-metallurgical applications consume a lot of cobalt compared to metallurgical industries in over the recent years. Li-ion batteries are in huge demand in advanced technological applications and electric vehicles which is driving the cobalt market simultaneously. Newer applications need raw cobalt in chemical form, such as cobalt sulphate with high purity standards. Cobalt sulphate is majorly used by pre-cursor manufacturers, cathode compound producers and integrated battery manufacturers. Most of the European Li-ion battery manufacturing units are manufacturers of electric vehicles and battery industry.
Almost all the cobalt products are used in various end-user industries such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical domain and other sectors. Cobalt is used in the manufacturing of alloys for jet engines, gas turbines, drill bits, magnets, orthopaedic implants and many more products. Various cobalt product types are sintering of cobalt, cobalt alloy and cobalt salt. The major end-user industries of cobalt products are battery materials, calendering process resin, super heat resistant alloy, tool steel, hard alloy and magnetic materials. Around 75% of lithium batteries use cobalt in their manufacturing process. It was observed that lithium batteries include cobalt as a chief component mineral in their cathodes.
Geographically, Europe cobalt products market is spread across Germany, Russia, UK, France, Italy and other regions. The leading players in global cobalt products market are Vale (BR), Sherritt International (CA), Glencore International AG (Switzerland), ENRC(Switzerland), Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.(US), Grammy(CN), China Metallurgical(CN), Shandong Jinling Mining Co., Ltd(CN), Yunnan Copper Group(CN), Jinchuan Group Co., LTD(CN), Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Industry Co. LTD(CN), Jiangsu Kalik Co. LTD(CN), Zhejiang Jialike Cobalt Nickel Material Co. LTD(CN), and Nanjing Cold Cobalt Industry Co. LTD(CN). Cobalt products market is categorized into independent mineral, commingling and other.
European automotive companies manufacturing electric automobiles originally used battery cathodes comprising lithium, nickel, aluminium, and cobalt, but the new battery reveales that it consists of nickel, manganese, and cobalt. It was estimated, by the year 2022, few automobile companies will start production of their own cobalt pyrophosphate cathodes for automobile use. Additionally, smartphone batteries account for a major share in Europe’s market for cobalt.
The continuing fluctuations in oil prices and the demand for environmentally-friendly alternatives to conserve fossil fuels are the major factors that are driving the growth in batteries for energy generation. Batteries power electric vehicles and essential everyday electronic devices such as smartphones are fuelled by lithium ions along with a raft of other metals including the relatively unknown cobalt. The increasing demand for cobalt in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries will drive Europe’s cobalt products industry over the next few years.
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications