Cobalt is demanded in excess for various manufacturing process and therefore, it is often referred to as blue gold. The price of cobalt increases almost every year due to the metal’s importance in the lithium battery industry and its limited supply. It was estimated that the demand would increase drastically when the electric car market booms and lithium batteries will start powering the world. Over 60% of global supply of cobalt is produced in Congo with huge cobalt reserves. The 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 production. The available lithium batteries are fuelling the needs of the ever growing global population. 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 hunting for cobalt supplies around the world. A multinational competition was observed in the cobalt market due to a tough challenge for many products that are based on rechargeable batteries. Instead of finding fresh supply of cobalt reserves, researchers are also keen to find a metal to replace cobalt in batteries. This situation may also lead to delay or even halting the new generation electric vehicles.
According to the study “Asia Cobalt Products Industry Situation and Prospects Research report”, cobalt consumption in non-metallurgical applications has witnesses more consumption than in metallurgical industries in past few years. There is a huge demand for Li-ion batteries in advanced technological applications and electric vehicles which is driving the cobalt market. These applications need raw cobalt in chemical form, such as cobalt sulphate with high purity standards. Cobalt sulphate is used by pre-cursor manufacturers, cathode compound producers and integrated battery manufacturers. Most of the Asian Li-ion battery manufacturing units are located in China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The major consumers of cobalt in Asian industries are manufacturers of electric vehicles and battery industry.
Cobalt products are used in various industries such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical domain and other sectors. It is used in manufacturing everything from alloys for jet engines, gas turbines, drill bits, magnets, orthopaedic implants and many more products. Cobalt Products market is categorized into independent mineral, commingling and other. Various cobalt product types are sintering of cobalt, cobalt alloy and cobalt salt. The major users of cobalt products are battery materials, calendaring process resin, super heat resistant alloy, tool steel, hard alloy and magnetic materials. Around 75% of lithium batteries use cobalt in the manufacturing process. It was observed that lithium batteries include cobalt as a chief component mineral in their cathodes. Geographically, Asia cobalt products market is spread across China, Japan, India, Korea, Saudi Arabia 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).
Tesla Motors is a leading company in the electric automotive industry, which originally used battery cathodes comprising lithium, nickel, aluminium, and cobalt, but the new battery revealed consists of nickel, manganese, and cobalt. By the year 2022, Toyota will start production of its cobalt pyrophosphate cathodes for automobile use. However, smartphone batteries account for a major share in Asia’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 ¬which 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 Asia’s cobalt products industry over the next few years.
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications