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Congo and cobalt critical

Richard (Rick) Mills
0 Comments|December 21, 2012

Demand for cobalt is expected to rise at about 7% YOY to over 100,000 tonnes by 2016. Experts say mo

What makes a metal critical:

  • The availability or lack of these elements can have major impacts on energy systems and significantly increased demand could strain supply. That could cause massive price increases or even unavailability and therefore discourage the use of new technologies.
  • Most of these critical elements are produced as byproducts in the production of other metals so ramping up production can be extremely difficult
  • Relentless demand for high-tech consumer products in emerging countries
  • Ongoing material research that is exploding uses for these critical metals
  • Very low substitutability
  • Virtually no recycling
  • Because of the relative scarcity of critical metals their extraction often involves processing large amounts of materials which sometimes causes unacceptable environmental damage and, because critical metals are often a byproduct of the production of other metals, the timeline required for new production is dependent on the price of those other metal

  • Critical metals also have a very high supply risk because a large share of the worldwide production comes mainly from a handful of countries.

The U.S. Department of Energy says materials used in four clean energy technologies: wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy efficient lighting are critical now.

The American Physical Society's Panel on Public Affairs and the Materials Research Society coined the term "energy critical element" to describe elements that are essential to one or more of the new energy-related technologies. The European Union commissioned a report that identified 14 materials critical to the EU.

Only four metals or element groups made all three lists: Rare Earth Elements (REE), platinum group elements (PGE), lithium and cobalt.


Green initiatives have become a global focus point for many investors.

There can be absolutely no dispute that cobalt holds a critical role in the future green energy economy for its use in solar panels and in the blades and magnets for wind turbines and for its use in the rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics.

Cobalt is also used in the high-speed, high-strength wear-resistant alloys that are used in aerospace and military technologies. Cobalt also has many industrial uses such as a catalyst in desulfurizing crude oil and in hydrogen generation oxidation. It is used in natural gas-to-liquid technology, orthopedics and life sciences.

Even though cobalt is one of the thirty most abundant elements in the earth's crust, it has an extremely low concentration, just 0.002 percent so it is rare to find it in economical standalone deposits.

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