Last year, the cobalt market grew in an unprecedented fashion, rising 22% on the year prior, with this upward trend expected to continue, rising by about 13% a year for the next five years, says cobalt sustainability organisation the Cobalt Institute.
For the first time, cobalt demand from electric vehicles (EVs) overtook other battery applications to become the largest end-use sector accounting for 34% of total cobalt demand in 2021.
Thirty-one percent went to other battery applications, 14% towards industrial metals and 11% to industrial chemicals.
The Cobalt Institute states that the commodity is expected to account for half of cobalt demand by 2026.
The Cobalt Institute’s ‘Cobalt Market Report’, published on May 17, confirms the role of cobalt as one of the key commodities of the green future, owing to the rapid growth of the lithium-ion battery market and a strong global uptake of EVs.
Cobalt Institute executive committee chairperson and Glencore cobalt trader head David Brocas says securing access to raw materials is crucial if the world is to achieve a sustainable and just transition to a greener future.
“Cobalt’s role in batteries and recycling makes it one of the critical materials of a climate-neutral future,” he says.
Cobalt Institute president Adam McCarthy adds that, as EVs continue to revolutionise green and sustainable mobility, cobalt-containing batteries are a technology of choice for many car manufacturers in Europe, North America and China.
In 2021, cobalt-containing battery chemistries accounted for 74% of the global EV battery market – largely owing to their superior energy density, safety and performance that is ensured by cobalt.
The Democratic Republic of Congo remained the largest source of cobalt, accounting for 74% (1.18-million tonnes) of global mine supply, while Australia accounted for the second-highest at 3% (560 000 t).
China remained the largest refiner of cobalt globally, accounting for 72% (104 000 t) of total primary production, while Indonesia was the largest growth market for refined cobalt production after China, and is expected to provide a quarter of total refined cobalt growth in the medium term.
In 2021, 64% of EVs manufactured went to the Chinese market, 26% to Europe and 10% to North America.
The Cobalt Institute commissioned business intelligence and market analysis agency CRU to look at the global trends in cobalt consumption, supply and production in 2021 in helping to formulate its report.