Africa moves a step closer to continent’s first cobalt refinery

15th February 2024 By: Bloomberg

Africa could have its first cobalt sulphate refinery by the end of 2025, one of the few outside of China capable of making the product that’s a key component of lithium-ion batteries.

Nigeria-based Africa Finance Corp. last week signed an expression of interest to provide $100-million in financing to Kobaloni Energy, backed by mining veteran Mick Davis’ Vision Blue, for the planned facility in Zambia.

AFC should reach an investment decision within 3-4 months, Chief Executive Officer Samaila Zubairu said in an interview Feb. 9. Once the financing is finalized, production could start within 18 months, Johnny Velloza, Kobaloni’s co-founder, said by text message Wednesday.

The project would help diversify a crucial part of the global battery making supply chain away from China, which currently accounts for about 75% of global cobalt refining capacity. Zambia isn’t a major cobalt producer, but its northern neighbour Democratic Republic of Congo mines about two-thirds of the world’s supplies of the metal.

Still, prices have plunged from highs above $80 000 a ton two years ago to about $28 000 on the London Metal Exchange due to oversupply, making investments in the metal more difficult.