2018 PRODUCTION STATISTICS
Table 1: CI Members Refined Cobalt Production (Tonnes)
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 2018 from the main sources re-porting their production, was 124,344 tonnes.
Table 1 illustrates refined cobalt production from CI members for calendar years 2011-2018.
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.
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 previously published tables.
For 2018, it will be observed that the production from CI Members was 42,987 tonnes. Due to the suspension of Glencore’s Katanga operations no refined cobalt was produced once again from that facility. BHP Billiton sold its Queensland Nickel (Yabulu) assets to the Palmer Group who formed QNPL in 2009, and from 2010 the re-fined 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)
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 the non-CI members shown in Table 2 in 2018 was 81,357 tonnes.
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 2018 was 78,360 tonnes.
The Chinese refined production figures also include any by-product cobalt produced from imported nickel ore (NPI). 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 emphasized 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 2017, and this is likely to result from the 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 2018 as far as the CI knows, so the total availability of cobalt reporting from other sources was 81,357 tonnes, as men-tioned above.
At 31 December 2018, 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 further purchases were made subsequently the CI understands. It is likely that the SRB holds about 5,000 tonnes of cobalt metal, though this needs to be verified. 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 2018 is shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Total Refined Cobalt Availability (Tonnes)
13. Total Supply does not include any estimates for producers not reporting their production.
Overall availability in 2018 totaled 124,344 tonnes.
As in the past, we emphasize 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 organizations for their kind cooperation in helping in the preparation of these important industry figures.
Note on the veracity of the CI refined cobalt statistics
Production of cobalt is reported by members of the Cobalt Institute directly to the secretariat. Non-member production data are drawn from published sources or reported directly to the CI. By definition these refined production statistics should reflect the total output of cobalt units which require no further processing before being sold to a final user. This definition has been used to eliminate double counting of material when it is treated and re-treated at different facilities. Developments in recent years, particularly in the battery sector, have made it more difficult to eliminate this double counting and hence the data should be interpreted with caution and should be used as an indication of trends only.
The Cobalt Institute publishes supply and demand information. These data are derived from worldwide import/export figures.
Early indications are that global apparent consumption appears to have been around 125,000 tonnes for 2018, similar to 123,000 tonnes the previous year. Apparent demand seems to have shown an improvement of about 13% in Asia, similar levels in Europe and a slight decline in America when compared to the same period in 2017 These are apparent demand figures and take no account of stock changes.
The graph below illustrates the change seen in the average quarterly Metal Bulletin free market price quotation for cobalt since 1992 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.
The HG price opened 2018 at US$36.70/lb (US$14.75/lb, 2017) and ended the year at US$ 27.13/lb (US$36.70/lb, 2017) while the LG price opened at US$36.00 (US$14.65/lb, 2017) and finished the year at US$27.25 (US$36/lb, 2017). The 2018 annual average HG price was US$37.43 (US$27.80/lb , 2017) and for LG it was US$37.35 (US$26.63/lb , 2017).
The CI takes the average bid/offer spread for both the HG and LG Metal Bulletin price quotation when calculating its average price.
Cobalt has traded on the LME since February 2010 with the 3-month contract which was followed by cash trading in May of that year. The average LME cash price for 2018 was US$32.87 (US$25.27/lb, 2017). The CI takes the average daily bid/offer cash spread for cobalt and averages this over the year.
The C-3 spread varied between a US$6,750/tonne contango and a US$500/tonne backwardation with an average spread for the year in a small backwardation of a little over US$261/tonne.