Cobalt price: Congo pro­duc­tion surges

Zambian Business Times - - MINING -

The price of cobalt is down 7% since hit­ting near 10-year peaks in March to ex­change hands for $89,000 a tonne this week.

Cobalt is still up nearly four­fold since hit­ting multi-year lows at the be­gin­ning of 2016 as wor­ries about sup­ply of the bat­tery raw ma­te­rial com­bine with ex­pec­ta­tions of boom­ing de­mand from the elec­tric ve­hi­cle sec­tor. Cobalt's tra­di­tional ap­pli­ca­tion as an al­loy in among oth­ers air­plane tur­bines also con­tin­ues to grow.

Sup­ply risks for cobalt are cen­tred on the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo which is re­spon­si­ble for two-thirds of world out­put. And the coun­try’s share will only in­crease over the next five years as Chi­nese in­vest­ment in new mines come on stream.

The cen­tral African na­tion's out­put of cobalt – as a byprod­uct of cop­per pro­duc­tion – is al­ready soar­ing as top pro­ducer Glen­core's op­er­a­tions in the coun­try ramps up again af­ter a re­fur­bish­ment pe­riod.

The DRC pro­duced 296,717 tonnes of cop­per in the first quar­ter of 2018, up 8.2% over the same pe­riod last year, the cen­tral bank said in a re­port on Thurs­day. Cobalt pro­duc­tion in the first quar­ter of 2018 rose 34.4% to 23,921 tonnes. Global pro­duc­tion last year was around 117,000 tonnes.

In­ter­na­tional min­ing com­pa­nies this week threat­ened le­gal ac­tion if their con­cerns over a new min­ing code signed into law in March are not ad­dressed, they said in a let­ter to the DRC mines min­is­ter this week.

Reg­u­la­tions to im­ple­ment the new code are due to be signed into law next week. The gov­ern­ment has shown no sign of bow­ing to in­dus­try de­mands that it re­spect 10-year pro­tec­tions for ex­ist­ing projects against changes to the fis­cal regime, or scrap plans to in­sti­tute a wind­fall prof­its tax.

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