What are the top cobalt-mining companies? Glencore takes the top spot by a significant margin, with four other major miners filling out the list.
After surprising to the upside in 2021, prices for the commodity stabilized in the first three months of 2022 and then took a breather in the second quarter. Even with this slowdown, experts have positive long-term expectations for cobalt.
That's largely because lithium-ion batteries containing cobalt are used to power EVs. As EV adoption spreads globally, increasing amounts of the blue metal will be required, which is expected to support cobalt prices.
Unfortunately, sourcing supply cobalt is tricky due to the fact that over half of the world’s production comes from the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). What’s more, about 60 percent of output is a by-product of copper. This has led to supply chain concerns as battery manufacturers look to secure materials as they build out their production capacity.
With those factors in mind, here’s a look at the five top cobalt-mining companies, as per information provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. This data does not yet consider year-end reporting by the public companies.
Total production: 25,320 MT
Glencore is the world’s largest cobalt-producing mining company by a long shot, achieving estimated total production of 25,320 metric tons (MT) in 2021. Near-term growth in output is expected from the company’s operations in the DRC; this includes increased cobalt production at the Mutanda mine restart and at Katanga.
Glencore recently partnered with Electra Battery Materials (TSXV:ELBM,OTCQX:ELBMF), Talon Metals (TSX:TLO,OTC Pink:TLOFF) and the Ontario government to study the potential for a nickel sulfate battery materials park adjacent to Electra's cobalt refinery and recycling plant. “The realization of this vision would result in the creation of North America's first integrated, localized and environmentally sustainable battery materials park for the EV market,” states a press release.
2. Eurasian Resources Group
Total production: 20,700 MT
Eurasian Resources Group, which is a privately held diversified international miner, produced an estimated total of 20,700 MT of cobalt in 2021. The company bills itself as “the world's largest high-carbon ferrochrome producer by chrome content and among the principal copper and cobalt suppliers.”
Eurasian Resource Group’s Metalkol RTR recycling project in the DRC is reprocessing historic mine tailings that belong to other miners in the region. The operation is currently capable of producing 21,000 MT per year of cobalt, which the company suggests is “sufficient for 3 million EV batteries.”
Total production: 14,800 MT
Partially owned by the Chinese government, China Molybdenum produced an estimated 14,800 MT of cobalt in 2021. In the DRC, the cobalt-mining company owns 80 percent of the Tenke Fungurume mine, which has one of the world’s largest concentrations of cobalt. Reportedly, most of Tenke Fungurume’s output is consumed by China.
China Molybdenum has committed to spending US$2.5 billion to nearly double production of copper and cobalt from the Tenke Fungurume mine. The project was slated for completion and increased production in 2023.
However, a Congolese court recently removed the company as the major operator of the mine in favor of the government. “The ruling, which removes Chinese leadership of the mine for at least six months, stems from a dispute over billions of dollars in payments the Congolese government says it is owed by the Chinese owner, China Molybdenum,” the New York Times reported.
Total production: 13,860 MT
Gecamines, a state-controlled cobalt-mining company in the DRC, produced an estimated 13,860 MT of cobalt in 2021. Early that year, the company created Entreprise Générale du Cobalt, a new subsidiary, in order to take control of the country’s artisanal cobalt-mining sector.
Under the abovementioned China Molybdenum court ruling, Gecamines has been named as a third-party operator of the Tenke Fungurume mine while the court determines the final outcome of the case. Gecamines has a 20 percent stake in the mine.
5. Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt (SHA:603799)
Total production: 5,390 MT
China-based Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt produced an estimated 5,390 MT of cobalt in 2021. The company has three business divisions: the research, development and manufacturing of new energy lithium battery materials and cobalt new material products; the deep processing of cobalt and nickel new material products; and the mining, selection and primary processing of non-ferrous metals, such as cobalt, nickel and copper.
This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2017.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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