Cobalt shades lithium

By Tom Manzella | 10 March 2017

Despite its relative obscurity, cobalt is quietly becoming the next lithium, with demand for the base metal on the rise as a key component of lithium-powered batteries. Spot prices for cobalt have risen 117% year on year and 55% since Jan. 1, outpacing a 41% increase in Benchmark Mineral Intelligence's lithium carbonate global average. As of March 7, the LME cash price for cobalt stood at US$50,750/t.

LME Cobalt and lithium carbonate

The metal is normally produced as a by-product of copper and nickel operations, and cobalt's sharp price increase will have positive effects on these mines. It will also make development of copper and nickel projects with significant cobalt resources more attractive.

The SNL Metals & Mining database, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence, estimates a total of 76,500 tonnes of global cobalt production for 2016. In addition to as-reported data from primary producers, this figure includes estimates from copper and nickel projects that produce cobalt as a by-product. It does not include estimates for nonreporting companies or artisanal mining.

Find out who are the major producers of cobalt and the attributable reserves and resources by company.

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