FORTUNE -- Most of his neighbors are still sound asleep at 5 a.m., when Lukasa rises to begin his 12-hour workday. The slender 15-year-old, with an oval face and piercing stare, slips out of his family’s mud-brick home before dawn six days a week. Then he makes the two-hour walk from his tiny village in the southern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a government-owned mining site. (Fortune is withholding the name of the village in order to protect Lukasa and other children.) Once at the mine, Lukasa spends eight hours hacking away in a hole to accumulate chunks of a mineral that is crucial to keeping our modern lives moving: cobalt.
By about 3 p.m., Lukasa has filled a sack with his day’s haul. He hoists the load, which can weigh up to 22 pounds, on his back and lugs it for an hour by foot to a trading depot. “I sell it to Chinese people,” he says, referring to the buyers from Chinese commodity trading companies who dominate the market in the area. Lukasa is wearing a T-shirt with “Prada” written on the front and sitting under a shade tree in his village on a recent Sunday, his one day off, as he explains his routine. With a hint of pride he says, “On good days I can earn 15,000 francs.” That adds up to about $9.
NEXT BIG FUTURE -- China’s largest lithium battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) plans to begin producing in 2019 next-generation nickel-rich batteries, which are cheaper to make and have longer life-spans.
Cobalt stabilizes and extends the life of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Cobalt prices more than doubled in 2017 and peaked at a record high of $95,250 a tonne in March, 2018.
FASTMARKETS -- After a consultation period, Metal Bulletin has launched a price assessment to cover the Chinese cobalt sulfate market. Cobalt sulfate, of which China is the largest producer in the world, is one of the key materials used to produce lithium-ion nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) and nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs).
Therefore, Metal Bulletin aims to provide a regular tracker of Chinese cobalt sulfate prices on a spot basis and capture the evolution of the cobalt sulfate market in the country.
The newly launched China cobalt sulfate price assessment will enhance Metal Bulletin’s coverage of the battery raw materials supply chain in response to the looming EV boom.
THE EPOCH TIMES -- A new source of energy can be found at the forefront of electric-vehicle development in the 21st century, and China is beginning to dominate in controlling the world’s supply of this so-called new petroleum: the mineral cobalt.
Cobalt is one of the key components of the lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles (EVs).
While Japanese electric carmakers are struggling to acquire the mineral and called for government assistance during a July 24 industry meeting in Tokyo, Chinese companies have been able to control one of the world’s key sources: mines in the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is one of the world’s poorest countries.