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.
SOURCE: REUTERS AFRICA