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Chinese Group Becomes No. 1 Cobalt Producer on DRC Output Hike

In the race for key raw materials for lithium-ion batteries, China now appears to be leading the cobalt push, with its CMOC Group boosting production up over 170% in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and propelling it past Swiss-based Glencore. 

According to CMOC in a Thursday report, cobalt production rose 174% in 2023 to reach 55,526 metric tons, compared to the most recent third-quarter 2023 data showing Glencore cobalt output guidance at a maximum of 42,000 tons, according to Reuters

CMOC said it expected additional increases in cobalt and copper output for 2024, citing higher production at its Tenke Fungurume and Kisanfu mines in the DRC.

Most of the global supply of cobalt comes from the DRC. 

Cobalt saw a significant plunge in prices in the fourth-quarter of 2023 on global oversupply and a widespread slowdown in the battery market have been driving prices downward. Oversupply kicked into gear in the second-quarter, after the lifting of restrictions related to a year-long ownership dispute that had stymied output. 

In April 2022, cobalt prices were at $81,790/metric ton, plunging to $33,140/metric ton a year later. Since the beginning of 2024, cobalt has been trading at $29,135/metric ton.

Last month, Jorge Uzcategui of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence suggested to Reuters that China’s CMOC appeared to be “trying to flood the cobalt market in an attempt to control a larger share of the market and oust the marginal producers, giving them more control over prices in the medium to long term.”

Most analysts anticipate a bearish year for cobalt prices, along with other battery metals, including lithium and nickel, with Goldman Sachs noting in early December that it expected “further downside” in the near-term on weakening EV battery demand and increasing global production of battery metals. 


By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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