ASIA TIMES -- China’s Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) seems to be picking up steam, with German carmaker Daimler the latest high-profile manufacturer to announce plans to join the campaign led by a Chinese industry group and designed to tackle social and environmental hurdles in the global cobalt supply chain.
Where global commodities are concerned, China has typically been portrayed by commentators as an amoral customer with a seemingly bottomless appetite. With the establishment of the RCI by the aptly named China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters in 2016, Chinese industry appeared to be changing its tune. By spearheading the RCI, China seemed determined to take the lead in ensuring global corporate responsibility throughout a supply chain long criticized for countless human-rights abuses, including child labor.
FORBES -- Despite what Elon Musk claims, the importance of the metal cobalt in the growing electric vehicle market and beyond will continue. Cobalt is a key ingredient used in the lithium-ion batteries that continue to proliferate across a variety of markets. Cobalt now sells for ~$95,000 per ton, compared to $23,000 two years ago, and surging demand for electric vehicles, jet engines, mobile phones, and laptops could lead to major shortages and even higher prices. This year alone, demand for cobalt could increase 40-50%, with use in the battery sector alone exploding 15-20 fold by 2030.
Globally, cobalt production is dominated by the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is a moral problem for consumers: "Carmakers and big tech struggle to keep batteries free from child labor." Congo is a "not free" nation, and a legal tussle over royalties with mining giant Glencore "highlights the nascent electric vehicle sector’s vulnerability, with an escalation seen crippling supplies of the key battery metal." Glencore accounts for more than 25% of the world’s supply, so any disruption that would soar prices even more illustrates how the cobalt market is overly susceptible to the whims/problems of a few.