Socio-Economic Analysis

Cobalt is set to remain at the center of the global green transition

The Global Cobalt Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) was conducted by Wood Mackenzie on behalf of the Cobalt Institute in 2021 and is one of the most comprehensive analysis of the industry to date. The study confirms that during the 2010-2021 period the global cobalt industry showed significant growth with positive socio-economic impacts. It is expected to grow even further, driven by increased batteries production and recycling opportunities.

Key Findings

The cobalt industry showed significant growth in the past 10 years with positive socio-economic impacts on jobs, labor income and tax payments.

The cobalt industry showed significant growth in the past 10 years with positive socio-economic impacts on jobs, labor income and tax payments.

Value addition tripled from 2010 ($10bn) to 2021 ($35bn), and is expected to double by 2030 ($62bn). Value addition was calculated summing up direct effects (the demand produced directly by the industry for goods and services), indirect effects (the demand produced by the industry’s suppliers) and the income effect (i.e. wages from employment or taxes that are spent locally).

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The cobalt industry showed significant growth in the past 10 years with positive socio-economic impacts on jobs, labor income and tax payments.

Value addition tripled from 2010 ($10bn) to 2021 ($35bn), and is expected to double by 2030 ($62bn). Value addition was calculated summing up direct effects (the demand produced directly by the industry for goods and services), indirect effects (the demand produced by the industry’s suppliers) and the income effect (i.e. wages from employment or taxes that are spent locally).

Cobalt will remain at the center of the green transition across the world with wider socio-economic benefits.

Cobalt will remain at the center of the green transition across the world with wider socio-economic benefits.

The number of jobs in the cobalt value chain increased threefold, growing from 288,000 in 2010 to 863,000 in 2021. This number is expected to reach 1,5mn in 2030.

The labour income generated by the cobalt industry rose from $4bn in 2010 to $12bn in 2021, growing at a 10% annual rate. Labour income is expected to reach $20bn in 2030, driven by market growth and price increase.

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Cobalt will remain at the center of the green transition across the world with wider socio-economic benefits.

The number of jobs in the cobalt value chain increased threefold, growing from 288,000 in 2010 to 863,000 in 2021. This number is expected to reach 1,5mn in 2030.

The labour income generated by the cobalt industry rose from $4bn in 2010 to $12bn in 2021, growing at a 10% annual rate. Labour income is expected to reach $20bn in 2030, driven by market growth and price increase.

The cobalt industry offers good potential for businesses and governments. It is expected to grow even further, driven by increased batteries production and recycling opportunities.

The cobalt industry offers good potential for businesses and governments. It is expected to grow even further, driven by increased batteries production and recycling opportunities.

Globally, the cobalt supply chain contributed $6.1 billion in tax revenues annually, growing from $3.5bn in 2010 to $11bn in 2021. This upward trend is expected to continue, reaching $19bn in 2030.

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The cobalt industry offers good potential for businesses and governments. It is expected to grow even further, driven by increased batteries production and recycling opportunities.

Globally, the cobalt supply chain contributed $6.1 billion in tax revenues annually, growing from $3.5bn in 2010 to $11bn in 2021. This upward trend is expected to continue, reaching $19bn in 2030.

China is the biggest player in the cobalt value chain, and Europe and the U.S. have opportunities in cobalt refining, recycling, and battery production.

China is the biggest player in the cobalt value chain, and Europe and the U.S. have opportunities in cobalt refining, recycling, and battery production.

Recycling rates have doubled through 2010-2021, going from 4% to 9% in ten years. Recycling is expected to continue to rise especially due to new technological innovations that will come onstream. It is expected to reach 20% of the total cobalt supply in 2030.

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China is the biggest player in the cobalt value chain, and Europe and the U.S. have opportunities in cobalt refining, recycling, and battery production.

Recycling rates have doubled through 2010-2021, going from 4% to 9% in ten years. Recycling is expected to continue to rise especially due to new technological innovations that will come onstream. It is expected to reach 20% of the total cobalt supply in 2030.

Key to achieving the anticipated benefits for the cobalt industry from the green transition will be overcoming the significant challenges present in the artisanal cobalt sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo by ensuring greater wellbeing, equality and inclusivity of the miners and local communities reliant on this activity for their livelihoods. 

Learn more about responsible cobalt sourcing.

Photo Credit: Fair Cobalt Alliance

Previous cobalt SEA studies

The first study

involved consolidation of previous survey data collected (2014 to 2017) on manufacture/ import and use of cobalt compounds in Europe, into the ‘Cobalt Value Chain’ report (eftec, 2019).

The second study

involved a ‘Socio-economic analysis of the cobalt industry in the EEA, 2010-2017’ (Roskill, 2019), which provides an overview of the socio-economic footprint attributable to the production, use, and recycling of cobalt metal and chemicals within the EEA.

The third study

involves a scenario-based socio-economic analysis of the global cobalt industry and presents forecasts that consider the growing demand for cobalt in battery applications for mobility (electric vehicles), and the importance of the recycling of cobalt-containing products at the end of life.

For further information:

Please get in touch with the Cobalt Institute to request the results of the Socio-Economic Analysis (2021).

Cobalt: A socio-economic analysis of its contributions to European economy (2019)

Cobalt value chain: Final Summary Report (2019)

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