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DRC Commodity Gets Boost as Cars Go Green

Demand and prices for battery material cobalt are soaring as electric vehicles stream out of showrooms in China and Europe, with little prospect of a significant reversal as drivers and governments move to cut carbon emissions. The price of the metal stands at $53,000 per tonne, up 65% this year and around its highest since December 2018, having been as low as $25,000 in 2019 due to a global market surplus. Supplies are scarce, partly due to COVID-19 logistical issues in South Africa – which transits material from the cobalt-rich Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – and after top cobalt consumer China stockpiled metal. Cobalt demand – mainly for EVs where it is used to stabilise and extend the life of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries – is expected to outstrip supply, creating deficits. Benchmark expects demand for cobalt to jump 18% this year from last year, or about 23,000 tonnes. Shortages have been exacerbated by the closure since 2019 of the Mutanda mine in DRC, owned by top producer Glencore, and a decline in artisanal mining.