Summary of Cobalt Mineral Commodities Globally 2015

World Cobalt Consumption

In recent years, global production of refined cobalt has been higher than consumption, resulting in a market surplus and downward pressure on prices. This trend is expected to continue in the near-term as production from new projects and expansions to existing operations add to supply of mined and refined cobalt.

See also:  Thorium Mineral Products and Consumption

China was the world’s leading producer of refined cobalt and the leading supplier of cobalt imports to the United States. Much of China’s production was from ore and partially refined cobalt imported from Congo (Kinshasa). In recent years, China has been drawing down significant stocks of cobalt feed that had accumulated from 2009 through 2011. During the first 6 months of 2014, world availability of refined cobalt (as measured by production) was 10% higher than that of the same period in 2013.

See also: Tin Mineral Products and Consumption

China showed a large increase in production of refined cobalt; significant increases in production in Finland, Japan, and Madagascar also contributed to supply. Worldwide cobalt inventories in London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouses decreased to 491 tons at the end of October 2014 from 560 tons at yearend 2013.

World Cobalt Mine Production and Reserves

Cobalt Reserves for Australia, Brazil, Canada, the United States, and “Other countries” were revised based on company or Government reports.

Cobalt globally mine production and reserves
Cobalt world mine production and reserves

World Cobalt Resources 

Identified cobalt resources of the United States are estimated to be about 1 million tons. Most of these resources are in Minnesota, but other important occurrences are in Alaska, California, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. With the exception of resources in Idaho and Missouri, any future cobalt production from these deposits would be as a byproduct of another metal. Identified world terrestrial cobalt resources are about 25 million tons.

See also: Silver Mineral Products and Consumption

The vast majority of these resources are in sediment-hosted stratiform copper deposits in Congo (Kinshasa) and Zambia; nickel-bearing laterite deposits in Australia and nearby island countries and Cuba; and magmatic nickel-copper sulfide deposits hosted in mafic and ultramafic rocks in Australia, Canada, Russia, and the United States. More than 120 million tons of cobalt resources have been identified in manganese nodules and crusts on the floor of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

Cobalt Substitutes 

In some applications, substitution for cobalt would result in a loss in product performance. Potential substitutes include barium or strontium ferrites, neodymium-iron-boron, or nickel-iron alloys in magnets; cerium, iron, lead, manganese, or vanadium in paints; cobalt-iron-copper or iron-copper in diamond tools; copper-iron-manganese for curing unsaturated polyester resins; iron, iron-cobalt-nickel, nickel, cermets, or ceramics in cutting and wearresistant materials; iron-phosphorous, manganese, nickel-cobalt-aluminum, or nickel-cobalt-manganese in lithium-ion batteries; nickel-based alloys or ceramics in jet engines; nickel in petroleum catalysts; and rhodium in hydroformylation catalysts.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, 2015, Mineral commodity summaries 2015 & U.S. Geological Survey, 196 p.

Summary of Cobalt Mineral Commodities Globally 2015