Cobalt as a CRM
Cobalt is globally recognised as ‘critical’ and is often referred to as a technology enabling metal due to its unique properties.
Metals have transformed the world by providing the resources necessary for creating and developing modern materials and enabling technological progress. As such, raw materials are fundamental to global economic growth and seen as essential for maintaining and improving the quality of life.
Industry reliance on metals has caused considerable growth in the number of materials used across a range of products. Securing reliable and sustainable access to certain raw materials is a growing concern.
The EU has identified 20 metals and minerals (2014) as being ‘Critical’ and this number is likely to grow. These materials are of large economic importance which also often have a high risk associated with their supply.
The USA also recognises the strategic importance of certain raw materials, particularly those that it doesn’t produce; cobalt is considered to be one of these.
Cobalt is critically and strategically important as it is used in association with a broad range of key industrial, sustainable and technological applications.
Why is cobalt considered critical even though it is not a particularly rare metal?
In terms of supply, cobalt ranks 33rd in abundance and is widely scattered in the Earth’s crust, only being found in potentially exploitable quantities in few countries, largely centred on Central Africa and also Canada, Cuba, Australia and Russia. It is normally associated with copper and nickel production.
About 50% of global cobalt reserves are found in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (USGS 2016) with approximately 55% of the world’s cobalt being sourced from this country. For the EU, the concentration of cobalt in this politically sensitive region moves cobalt onto the ‘critical’ raw material list.
This is because cobalt has many strategic and irreplaceable industrial uses whilst also being the central component of vitamin B12 which is fundamental to growth and vitality.