Cobalt is not a particularly rare metal and it ranks 32nd in global abundance.
Cobalt is widely scattered in the earth’s crust and is found in a variety of different ores in several countries. Cobalt is only extracted alone from the Moroccan and some Canadian arsenide ores. It is normally associated as a by-product of copper or nickel mining operations. Around 55% of the world cobalt production comes from nickel ores.
Identified global terrestrial cobalt reserves are estimated to be 7.2 million tons and resources about 25 million tons.
Current research is looking into developing new innovative methods for cobalt production. The CI are currently collaborating with the Natural History Museum on one such project, CoG3.
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). Current land sources are estimated to provide well over 100 years of supply, so no long-term shortage is in sight, particularly when considering recycling.
Cobalt is classed as a critical raw material by the EU due to both being an essential mineral in creating a sustainable planet, and 55% of the global supply originating from the politically unstable DRC. The large percentage of cobalt that originates from the DRC highlights the importance for companies to follow Due Diligence procedures with regards to responsible sourcing.
Table 1 Countries that mine or refine cobalt. Figures refer to 2016 production levels unless otherwise stated: * Includes cobalt produced by facilities in China.