Is Cobalt Ready to Boom?

- June 6th, 2016

The cobalt mining industry is set to take off with the significant role the critical metal plays in lithium-ion batteries.

It’s been a long time coming, but the cobalt mining industry is ready to boom, and it’s in part due to the significant role the metal plays in batteries.
Specifically, cobalt is an important ingredient in a number of different lithium-ion battery cathodes. For example, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) uses nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathodes in the batteries for its electric vehicles (the batteries are currently manufactured by Panasonic (TYO:6752)).
Jon Hykawy of Stormcrow Capital stated at this year’s Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference that cobalt is a “very important part of the battery” because it helps increase the amount of energy the battery can contain.  The metal is also used extensively in the manufacturing of smartphones, jet engines and wind turbines.
Hykaway said that in 2015, global mined cobalt production totaled roughly 120,000 tonnes, with 53,000 tones being used as cathode mineral. He also noted that by 2025, we will see a requirement of 121,000 tonnes of cobalt, which currently exceeds all producing cobalt.
With companies like Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) building lithium-ion battery megafactories that will require significant amounts of lithium, graphite and cobalt, the future of some cobalt-producing companies is looking bright.

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China upping its investment in cobalt production

A couple of weeks ago, China Molybdenum announced its plans to purchase Freeport McMoRan‘s (NYSE:FCX) interest in its TF Holdings Limited for $2.65 billion, which would make it the largest producer of cobalt, as well as molybdenum and tungsten.
This is huge for the cobalt mining industry as it will benefit China’s supply of cobalt.  Because of this, Tesla Motors could find itself heavily relying on China for cobalt as they aim to increase production of electric cars in the coming years. Unrelated, the company’s purchase is also allegedly the biggest private investment in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s history.
As early as next year, China could be producing approximately 62 percent of the global refined cobalt production, increasing its demand by more than two-thirds over the next decade.

Cobalt Mining Companies That Are Flourishing

While China may be taking on more and more of the world’s cobalt production, there are also a number of junior mining companies developing cobalt projects outside of the country. Some have seen impressive gains in share price so far this year.

Formation Metals (TSX:FCO)

So far, 2016 has been kind to Formation Metals. Year-to-date, their share price has made significant gains of 395.65 percent—a $0.45 increase—to sit at $0.58.  Their success so far this year is a continuation from 2015, with a 267.74 percent over a one-year period.
In December, the company announced it had produced high purity cobalt salts for the rechargeable battery sector. This represented the culmination of a year-long testing program to demonstrate that, indeed, high purity battery grade cobalt sulfate could be produced from the company’s Idaho cobalt project. It had also been verified by the General Electric’s Water and Process Technologies’ (GE) group.
Formation’s president and CEO, Paul Farquharson, said,  “Thanks to the many participants in the flowsheet development and testing steps that included in-house consultants, Samuel Engineering Inc., Irish Metals llc, Hazen Research, Cytec, and GE, Formation has demonstrated it can successfully produce high purity, battery grade cobalt sulfate from ICP ore.”
The company’s latest announcement came at the beginning of June when they announced they had completed an oversubscribed $4.4 million private placement.

Fortune Minerals (TSX:FT)

Fortune Minerals is currently focused on advancing the NICO gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper project in the Northwest Territories, with plans to build in Saskatchewan. The company’s most recent cobalt-related news came in January, wherein Fortune announced they had produced premium battery-grade cobalt sulphate samples from NICO.
Much like Formation Metals’ 2016 success, Fortune’s shares have boomed 525 percent year-to-date by $0.11 to $0.125. The company’s one-year shares to date have steadily seen an increase of 47.06 overall between June 8, 2015 and June 6, 2016.

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The Future of Cobalt Mining

It goes without saying that with a rise in the usage of electric cars in the coming years, the cobalt mining industry is set to take off.  With the battery market expanding as consumers gradually turn to electric cars, the cobalt industry looks to be shaping up.
Kalidas Madhavpeddi, head of CMOC International, said in an interview with Bloomberg, that electric cars “probably have a growth rate of 11 percent plus a year in terms of batteries.
“The cobalt market has got a very exciting future,” Madhavpeddi said.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: Formation Metals is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content

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