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Cobalt Institute report: demand for cobalt for batteries grew at annual rate of 10% between 2013 and 2020

The Cobalt Institute has released its State of the Cobalt Market Report 2020. The Cobalt Institute commissioned Roskill to look at the global trends in cobalt consumption, supply and production in 2020. The report is the most comprehensive publicly available market overview to date.

According to the report, the cobalt market has grown overall at an annual rate of more than 5% since 2013. The major drive for this growth was the demand for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries. It accounted for 57% of the total cobalt consumption in 2020, followed by nickel-based alloys and tool materials (13% and 8% respectively).

Demand for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries, used chiefly in portable electronics and electric vehicles, has increased at an annual rate of 10% between 2013 and 2020.


The cobalt market also remained robust despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic: the COVID-19-related shutdowns, and weaker demand in certain segments such as aerospace.


Overview of the material flows in the cobalt market, from mine production, through intermediate and refined stages, into cobalt’s main applications and, finally, the use of cobalt by industry, based on estimates for 2020. The most important flow of cobalt units in terms of volume is shown at the top. Cobalt mine production (mainly in the DRC) as a by-product of copper mining results in the production of a Cu-Co concentrate. This is processed into an intermediate, mostly crude cobalt hydroxide (and mostly in the DRC). Intermediates, in turn, are processed into refined cobalt (mainly chemicals and mostly in China), consumed in battery manufacturing (mostly in Asia) and then portable electronics and automotive applications. Source: Cobalt Institute

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remained the largest source of cobalt supply, accounting for 66% of the global mine supply. Asia was the largest cobalt-consuming region, with China being the leading cobalt-consuming country (32% of global cobalt consumption).

Cobalt recycling was a fast-growing and important source of cobalt feedstock to the supply chain, accounting for 10.6kt in 2020 with 65% coming from battery recycling. This figure will grow once batteries are produced on a larger scale and more electric vehicles are deployed across the world.

Overall, the Cobalt Institute expects to see a greater increase in the use of cobalt in batteries, with the report projecting demand for electric vehicles growing by nearly 30% annually to 2025.

Combined with the expectations for traditional cobalt applications—such as aerospace and tooling—to recover from the pandemic, prospects for the cobalt market look bright for the coming years.


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