2017 PRODUCTION STATISTICS
Table 1: CI Members Refined Cobalt Production (Tonnes)
Notes: 1. 2009: BHPB 700mt Jan - Jul and Queensland Nickel Pty (QNPL) 1000mt Aug-Dec. (See also Note 12). 2. Estimated production after 2012. 3. Glencore joined CI 2014. 4. Previously reported as Xstrata, Norway. 5. Rubamin joined CI in 2009 and left in 2013. 6. Includes Umicore's global refined production. 7. Chambishi Metals plc Zambia (ERG).
The CI estimates that total refined cobalt supply in 2017 from the main sources reporting their production, was 116,937 tonnes, which is 24.5% higher than in the previous year.
Table 1 illustrates refined cobalt production from CI members for calendar years 2011-2017.
When comparing the current total of our Members production figures directly with those prepared for some previous years it should be noted that Rubamin, who joined the CI in 2009, then left in 2013 and so any refined cobalt production from Rubamin reports in ‘India’ from 2014.
Prior to 2010 Norilsk had been a CI Member but now reports as a non-CI Member.
Glencore joined the CI as a Full Member in 2014 and so from that year the associated statistical tables are adjusted to account for this. Therefore direct comparisons between production from Members and non-Members for previous years will need to take this into account when comparing historical data. Please note that ‘Nikkelverk/Raglan/Sudbury’ in table 1 refers to what was Xstrata, Norway in previous published tables.
For 2017, it will be observed that the production from CI Members was 44,052 tonnes which is very similar to the previous year. Several Members recorded increases in production compared to the previous year, most notably Freeport Cobalt, Vale and Umicore. Due to the suspension of Glencore’s Katanga operations no refined cobalt was produced from that Glencoreoperation.BHP Billiton sold its Queensland Nickel (Yabulu) assets to the Palmer Group who formed QNPL in 2009, and from 2010 the refined production reports as a non-Member. BHP Billiton’s Kwinana operations produce cobalt intermediate and this production will therefore not appear in the CI Members figures from 2009 as it is unrefined, but the cobalt will be captured elsewhere in the refined production figures. QNPL was put into administration and ceased trading in 2016.
Table 2: Other Refined Cobalt Production/Availability (Tonnes)
Notes: 8. Excludes Umicore's refined production in China. 9. Excludes Rubamin between 09 and 13 & est thereafter. 10. From 2014 this reports as Glencore in Table 1. 11. Norilsk ceased to be a CI member in 2009. 12. QNPL ceased to be a CI Member from 2014. Ceased trading 2016.
Refined cobalt availability from other sources is outlined in Table 2.Total refined production from these non-CI members in 2017 was 72,885 tonnes or46.5% higher than the previous year. As mentioned above, any direct comparison with the years before 2014 for this category needs to take into account appropriate adjustments for Glencore, Norilsk and Rubamin.
It was reported to the CI that Chinese refined production for 2017 was 69,600 tonnes which is an increase of 24,554 tonnes (or 54.5%) over that produced in calendar year 2016. It seems that there had been a significant increase in the import of hydrometallurgical intermediate and this year the Chinese figures include a significant proportion of cobalt recovered from scrap. The Chinese refined production figures include any by-product cobalt produced from imported nickel ore (NPI).
Chinese refined production arises mainly from imported intermediates and imported concentrate together with white alloy, NPI and some local concentrate (about 2% - 3%). We have noted in the past that the figures for China have included stockpiled material but we now understand that the connotative stockpile was ~5000 tonnes for 2009; about 7000 tonnes for 2010 and ~3000 tonnes in 2011. We understand that in 2017 the stockpile was ~3,500 tonnes. Therefore the refined cobalt availability for these years would have been affected accordingly. The CI has no figures for any connotative stockpiles since that time.
Recycled or scrap material may now be becoming an important source of cobalt units in China and further investigation into this aspect would be useful to understand the total supply side of this market more clearly. It is emphasised that the figure for China excludes Umicore’s Chinese production which is already included in Table 1.
Of the other non-CI Members Norilsk produced somewhat less than 2016, and this is likely to result fromthe upgrading of the smelter.Production in RSA is little changed and the production from Votorantim (now part of Companhia Brasileira de Alumino) is low as a result of the earlier suspension of nickel operations. Kasese operations in Uganda ceased in 2014.
There were no DLA deliveries during 2016 as far as the CI knows, so the total availability of cobalt reporting from other sources was 72,885 tonnes, as mentioned above.
At 31 December 2017, the uncommitted cobalt inventory in the US DLA stockpile remained at 301 tonnes. At the end of 2015 the Chinese State Reserve Bureau (SRB) purchased 1,800 tonnes cobalt metal, and apart from the material stockpiled in China there are no other meaningful stockpiles of which the CI is aware.
A summary of total refined cobalt availability from 2011 to 2017 is shown in Table 3.Overall availability in 2017 totalled 116,937 tonnes, some 23,000 tonnes higher than in 2016 and the first time that CI recorded refined production has been above 100,000 tonnes.
As in the past, we emphasise that the figures do not include production of refined cobalt from companies treating various cobalt-containing intermediate products and scrap who do not report their numbers to the CI. We would like to thank those non-member companies and organisations for their kind cooperation in helping in the preparation of these important industry figures.
The CI publishes supply and demand information and this data will soon be available in the WBMS/CI book “World Cobalt Statistics” for 2015-2017. These data are derived from worldwide import/export figures.
Table 3: Total Refined Cobalt Availability (Tonnes)
Note: 13. Total Supply does not include any estimates for producers not reporting their production.
Early indications are that global apparent consumption appears to have been around 101,500 tonnes for 2017, which is an apparent increase of ~9,500 tonnes (10%) compared to the previous year. Demand seems to have shown an improvement of about 10% in Europe, remained level in America and an increase of around 13% in Asia. These are apparent demand figures and take no account of stock changes. The publication can be purchased from either the CI or the WBMS and figures for 2017 will be available in May. See this website for details.
The graph below illustrates the change seen in the average quarterly Metal Bulletin free market price quotation for cobalt since 1989 for 99.8% (HG) and 99.3% (LG) min. cobalt. This information is based on quarterly averages so the graph does not show short-term price fluctuations.