Cobalt hunt takes Aussie ex­plorer to for­est on BMW's doorstep

Zambian Business Times - - MINING -

The search for cobalt, a key com­po­nent of the bat­tery-pow­ered auto fleets of the fu­ture, has ar­rived on BMW AG’s doorstep with a dis­cov­ery of an ore de­posit not far from the plant where the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer makes its i3 elec­tric city car.

The cobalt find in a forested sec­tion of Sax­ony’s Eichigt mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Ger­many’s first de­tec­tion of the metal in mod­ern times, could re­vive min­ing in an area that last saw ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the Re­nais­sance, and help di­ver­sify raw-ma­te­ri­als sup­ply, ex­plo­ration com­pany Lithium Aus­tralia said. Some 60% of the world’s cobalt is con­cen­trated in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, where con­cerns over work­ing prac­tices and po­lit­i­cal strife have sparked a global hunt for al­ter­na­tives sources.

Lithium Aus­tralia plans to “be­come a ma­jor sup­plier of en­ergy met­als -lithium and cobalt in par­tic­u­lar - into the Euro­pean mar­ket,” MD Adrian Grif­fin said Wed­nes­day in an emailed re­sponse to ques­tions. The re­gion “is the fastest-grow­ing ge­o­graphic sec­tor for lithium-ion cell con­sump­tion out­side China.”

Pro­duc­tion of bat­tery cells, which are as­sem­bled into the packs that power elec­tric cars, has so far been con­cen­trated in Asia. That’s set to change as Euro­pean car­mak­ers like Volk­swa­gen AG and Mercedes-Benz par­ent Daim­ler ramp up of­fer­ings of elec­tric ve­hi­cles. China’s BYD is con­tem­plat­ing a fac­tory in Europe, while Stock­holm-based North­volt is set to de­velop a four-bil­lion-euro ($4.7-bil­lion) plant in Swe­den to ri­val Tesla’s Giga fac­tory. Con­tem­po­rary Am­perex Tech­nol­ogy, the man­u­fac­turer known as CATL that’s China’s big­gest cell maker, is near­ing a de­ci­sion to set up a fa­cil­ity in Ger­many.

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