THE BALANCE -- Cobalt, which is primarily extracted as a by-product of nickel and copper ores, is mined in large quantities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Russia, Canada and Australia.
Cobalt refineries, however, are rarely located near the source mine sites. Instead, major refiners purchase cobalt concentrate from various mines and ship to their own locations.
Here are some of the top producers of cobalt worldwide.
China's largest cobalt producers include Jinchuan Nonferrous Metals Corp., Huayou Cobalt Co., Ltd., Jiangsu Cobalt Nickel Metal Co., Ltd. and Shenzhen Green Eco-manufacture Hi-tech Co., Ltd., which each have annual refined cobalt production capacities of over 7,000 metric tonnes.
Freeport's Kokkola cobalt refinery in Finland is a major producer of cobalt chemicals for pigment, ceramic, powder metallurgy, battery and other chemical applications.
The refinery was acquired from OM Group, Inc. in 2013 by a consortium led by Freeport-McMoRan and including Tenke Fungurume Mining, Lundin Mining Corp., and Gecamines. It now operates as Freeport Cobalt.
Glencore's operation in Nikkelverk, Norway is the largest nickel refinery in the western world. Nickel concentrates containing cobalt, as well gold, platinum, and palladium, are imported from mines in Canada (Sudbury and Raglan) and other custom feed sources for processing.
Specialty metals refiner Umicore refines cobalt for its Cobalt and Specialty Materials (CSM) division at its facilities in Belgium and China. The company has been refining and selling cobalt products since 1912.
Chambishi Metals PLC is a Zambian copper and cobalt producer operated by ENRC Group. The company's mining, tolling, and refining operations are all located within Zambia, while sales and marketing are handled by Dubai-based Comit Resources FZE.
Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. (SMM) is a subsidiary of the Sumitomo Group, one of Japan's largest keiretsu, or business enterprises.
A large smelter and refiner of copper, nickel and gold, SMM has a 27.5 percent stake in the Ambatovy Nickel Project in Madagascar, along with Sherritt International and Korea Resources Corp.
The company's Niihama Nickel Refinery electrolytic nickel and cobalt in Japan. It's 2014 production increase over 25 percent from the year prior to 3,654MT.
Sherritt International of Canada has a 50 percent stake in the Moa Joint Venture (Cuba) and a 40 percent stake in the Ambatovy project (Madagascar).
The Moa Joint Venture is a vertically-integrated nickel and cobalt operation involving three companies: The Cobalt Refinery Company (CRC), International Cobalt Company Inc. (ICCI) and Moa Nickel SA.
Material is mined by subsidiaries of Sherritt and General Nickel Company SA at an open pit lateritic nickel mine in Cuba. Concentrates of nickel and cobalt are then shipped to Sherritt's Fort Saskatchewan facility for refining.
The Ambatovy mine and refinery have put Madagascar on the world's metal map.
Ambatovy is a partnership of four companies – Sherritt International Corporation and SNC-Lavalin Incorporated from Canada, Sumitomo Corporation from Japan, and Korea Resources Corporation from Korea.
Queensland Nickel in Australia operates the Palmer Nickel and Cobalt Refinery (also known as Yabulu), located about 25km (16 mi) north of Townsville, Queensland.
Operational since 1974, the refinery has been reliant on imported ore from New Caledonia, Indonesia, and the Philippines since 1986.
Ore is transported via the Port of Townsville to the refinery by rail where cobalt is refined and sold as purified feedstock to cobalt chemical manufacturers.
Norilsk Nickel in Russia is the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium and one of the largest producers of cobalt, platinum, and copper.
The company's main cobalt sources are the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company, the Polar Division and Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta (Finland).