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.