25 August 2021

Cobalt – Part of the U.S. Solution

When U.S. President Joe Biden took the oath of office in January of this year, he stepped into the middle of multiple crises – a worldwide pandemic, a changing global climate, and stunning domestic unrest fueled, in part, by inequities made worse through the long-running offshoring of America’s manufacturing sector and an overreliance on imported raw resources.

Recognizing that America’s fragile and fragmented supply chain was exacerbating these challenges, as one of his earliest acts in office, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) directing the U.S. government to undertake a comprehensive review of America’s critical supply chain on February 24, 2021. The EO called for officials across the government – consulting with a vast range of stakeholders from business, academia, interest groups, allies, and more – to identify risks, address vulnerabilities, and develop strategies to promote resilience.

The report emanating from this initial, 100-day review (to be followed by a year-long study) focused on four key areas: semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging; large capacity batteries; critical minerals and materials, and pharmaceuticals.

Cobalt figured prominently in the White House report, in large part a reflection of the Administration’s desire to dramatically grow renewable energy and expedite electric vehicle sales. To achieve the Administration’s goals, the U.S. must shore up the complex battery supply chain. Doing so, the report notes, will depend not just on increased mining, processing, and recycling of critical minerals on its own shores, but also on the U.S. collaborating with the global community to address supply chain issues ranging from environmental standards to workplace conditions.

The White House report considered a list of minerals needed for batteries, examining them throughout the value chain. While helpfully noting the many benefits of cobalt and identifying the three most critical battery raw materials as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, the authors also wrote:

“Cobalt received the lowest ‘quality’ supply chain score of all elements, largely due to the alleged mining conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and conditions surrounding cobalt refining in China.”

The White House 100-day supply chain report clearly presents opportunities for the future of cobalt, but it also underscores the challenges we know well and have long worked to address. To leverage those opportunities and overcome those challenges, the Cobalt Institute is already well-engaged, meeting with key U.S. government officials, and building relationships with stakeholders. We are engaging with decision-makers and offering the experience and expertise of our members throughout the value chain.  The Cobalt Institute aims to help the U.S. address its energy transformation ambitions and strengthen its supply chain by ensuring that it recognizes cobalt as the valued, critical part of the solution it is.

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