Cobalt is mined across the world and the vast majority is produced as a by-product from large scale copper and nickel mines.The process of cobalt mining involves many steps, including locating suitable deposits and extracting the ore before refining it into a usable form. Cobalt is only extracted alone in Morocco and some Canadian arsenide ores.
98% of cobalt production is mined as a by-product
Cobalt Institute members are responsible for the majority of cobalt mining around the world for over 70 % of mined production globally , utilising a variety of techniques including underground and surface mining.
Furthermore, various copper and nickel ores are processed by two main methods – hydro-metallurgical and pyrometallurgical.
There are approximately 30 principal cobalt-bearing minerals and over 100 more which contain minor amounts of the metal or include cobalt as a substitute for other elements.
Where is cobalt mined?
Total world reserves are estimated by the United States Geological Survey at around 7.6 million tons of contained cobalt. Cobalt is mined in several countries but the Democratic Republic of the Congo is by far the largest producer. However, as demand rises, mining in other countries including the US, Canada, and Australia is set to increase.
State of the Cobalt Market 2020 Report
Significant resources of cobalt are also present in the deep-sea nodules and crusts which occur in the Mid-Pacific. Although currently hypothetical resources, they are estimated to contain around 120 million tonnes of cobalt (USGS Metal Commodities Summary 2015).