Zambian Business Times

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


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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