The fear of running out of cobalt has seized the Korean and Japanese manufacturers of electric batteries. They are signing agreements and sometimes even long-term supply agreements, with small mining companies that have not yet finalized their mining projects in Canada or Australia. A panic movement against the increasingly strong grip of their Chinese competitors on the Congo cobalt resource.
The Chinese refiner GEM has seized a quarter of DRC production, signing an agreement for 52 000 tons over three years with Glencore, a quarter of the Congolese offer. When we know that it is another Chinese Group China molybdenum, who bought the other giant copper deposit of DRC, Tenke Fungurume, there is, indeed, worrying about a gradual takeover of the Chinese operators on the Congolese resource of Cobalt. And suddenly on the whole chain of the electric vehicle, whose sales increased by 58% just last year.
This is why battery manufacturers in other Asian countries are encouraging mining projects outside of DRC.
According to Reuters, Korean SK innovation has entered into an exclusive seven-year supply agreement with Australian mines to encourage this junior mining to complete its funding. She would like to begin extracting her first quantities of cobalt associated with nickel from 2020 in sconi, Northeast Australia. Half a dozen such agreements would have been concluded to accelerate the extraction of cobalt in Australia and Canada. Mines that would also have the advantage of not having the same governance problems as the Congo in the eyes of the buyers of electric batteries.
Will all these new projects change the hand?
Probably not. Australia has the second largest cobalt reserves in the world (1.2 Mt), it is three times less (3.5 Mt), and much more scattered than in the DRC, a real geological exception for the cobalt content of its deposits, says Patrice Christman expert on rare metals.
The only alternative project that is funded, the Australian project of panorama resources in Savannah, will be able to provide only eight months of world production of cobalt. We are not close to getting out of this cobalt supply crisis.