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Overview of the Global and Chinese Cobalt Market

Date:09-01-2014

Cobalt is irreplaceable due to its unique properties such as its crystalline structure and high melting point. Cobalt, the 33rd most abundant element in the earth’s crust has an estimated global reserve of around 7 million tons.

In 2012, the global refined cobalt market fell sharply by 6.1% year-on-year and the annual production declined to 77,200 tons. In 2013, the global market showed some growth but it is still not optimistic as a whole. The industry is expected to witness a year-on-year rise of 3.6%.
 
China has approximately 80,000 tons of total proven reserves of cobalt ore. China accounts for just 1% of global total and the vast majority of proven resources are associated ore. Independent mineralized cobalt occupies just 4.7% of the reserves in China. Cobalt ore in China is mainly distributed in the Gansu Province, accounting for 30.5% of China’s cobalt reserves. China is a big consumer of cobalt; it is primarily utilized in downstream sectors to produce hard alloy, magnetic materials and battery. In 2012, cobalt used in batteries presented 67% of total consumption of cobalt in China. The consumption was up by 4% from 2011.

Jinchuan Group International Resources Co. Ltd is the largest producer of cobalt in China. The company processes a complete integrated industrial chain of mining, processing, exploring, smelting, refining and chemical engineering as well. Huayou Cobalt Co. Ltd. on the other hand is the largest manufacturer of cobalt chemicals in China.

The decline of the cobalt industry globally was due to the global economic downturn. In 2012, the total global output of cobalt was up by merely 0.9%. The annual output of cobalt globally was 110,000 tons.

Cobalt’s main reserves are found in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This area holds close to half of the world’s cobalt reserves and is commonly known as the copper belt. Countries that hold much of the balance of global cobalt reserves include Zambia, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Cuba, Australia and New Caledonia. 64% of refined global cobalt output was originally mined in 2012. After mining, cobalt was in some cases, semi refined in the DRC and then refined to other countries in the world.

Cobalt also plays a significant role in hi-tech industries, environmental operations and medical uses. During the first half of 2013, cobalt prices recovered and the production also increased by around 40%. In the future, the cobalt market is expected to flourish.

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