Which countries have the largest cobalt reserves? Let’s take a look at the nations that hold the most of this critical metal.
Cobalt has been on everyone’s lips over the past couple of years. Even though prices are volatile, more and more investors are becoming interested in this metal.
Despite possible changes in battery chemistries and potential new battery technologies disrupting the market, demand for cobalt is expected to rise, and market watchers are particularly keen to find out where it may be mined in the future. That’s why it’s important to review cobalt reserves, which is how much economically mineable cobalt a country holds.
By keeping an eye on these numbers, it’s possible to guess which countries may become — or continue to be — powerhouses in the cobalt industry.
For instance, even though the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the world’s top cobalt producer, holds the world’s largest reserves of cobalt, Australia has a sizeable amount as well — but it doesn’t have the same widespread issues that the DRC has. Knowing this kind of information can help investors get ahead of the curve, as opposed to being on the bandwagon with everyone else.
“Those who control these critical raw materials (lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite) and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know-how, will hold the balance of industrial power in the 21st century auto and energy storage industries,” Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Managing Director Simon Moores has previously said.
Speaking specifically about cobalt, if full battery capacity is achieved, the London-based firm expects demand to increase fourfold, rising to 219,679 metric tons (MT) by 2023 and 276,401 MT by 2028. As a result, manufacturers of electric cars might struggle to secure supply of cobalt in the coming years.
With that in mind, here’s an overview of cobalt reserves by country. All cobalt reserves numbers are based on the US Geological Survey’s most recent data.
1. Democratic Republic of Congo
Cobalt reserves: 3,600,000 MT
As mentioned, the DRC holds the world’s largest reserves of cobalt. It’s also the world’s top cobalt producer, providing over half of global supply, with about 20 percent extracted by artisanal miners.
Unfortunately, the DRC is also home to political instability, making it a challenging place for miners to do business. What’s more, mining in the country has been linked to child labor and human rights abuses. What’s more, in 2018, former President Joseph Kabila implemented a new mining code that has increased royalties and taxes on the mineral.
Despite those challenges, the DRC is likely to remain key to cobalt production for the foreseeable future. As Caspar Rawles of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence has said, “There’s no lithium-ion battery industry without supply from the DRC.”
Cobalt reserves: 1,200,000 MT
Cobalt producer Australia puts out much less cobalt than the DRC, but its reserves of the metal are still quite impressive. It produced 5,100 MT of cobalt in 2019, making it the third largest cobalt producer, and its reserves stand at 1,200,000 MT.
With concerns about DRC cobalt running high, some electric car makers are calling for increased electric car battery production outside the African country, and Australia is one of the countries both automakers and battery manufacturers are paying attention to.
Currently, most of cobalt production in Australia is produced as a by-product of copper and nickel mining, two base metals that are also essential raw materials in electric cars. Clean TeQ Holdings (TSX:CLQ,OTCQX:CTEQF,ASX:CLQ) claims that its Sunrise project in New South Wales is “one of the highest grade and largest nickel and cobalt deposits outside of Africa.”
Cobalt reserves: 500,000 MT
Cuba’s cobalt reserves are the third largest globally. The country’s cobalt production came in at 3,500 MT in 2019. The Moa mine is a nickel-cobalt joint venture operation in the country shared between mining companies Sherritt International (TSX:S,OTC Pink:SHERF) and the General Nickel Company of Cuba.
Sherritt says it does not mine cobalt in conflict areas, nor does cobalt mined from any conflict area enter its supply chain at any point.
More cobalt reserves by country
The DRC, Australia and Cuba have the highest cobalt reserves, but many other countries also hold significant cobalt reserves. Here’s a quick look at where other nations stand:
- Philippines — 260,000 MT
- Russia — 250,000 MT
- Canada — 230,000 MT
- Madagascar — 120,000 MT
- China — 80,000 MT
- Papua New Guinea — 56,000 MT
Various other countries combine for a total of 640,000 MT of cobalt reserves, according to the US Geological Survey. The total world reserves figure sits at 7,000,000 MT.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.