Almost all cobalt produced globally is a by-product of mining other minerals – there are very few projects where cobalt is the primary element, and hence most projects have very low cobalt concentrations.
Cobalt demand is expected to exceed 100,000 tonnes in 2017, and CRU forecasts total demand of cobalt materials to increase at a CAGR of 11.6% over the next ten years. Alongside this large increase in demand, CRU also expects changes to the way refined cobalt is traded and produced. This is primarily due to a shift in cobalt demand from metallic products to chemical products to suit the Li-ion battery manufacturing industry.
The increasing importance of cobalt chemicals for the battery sector has led to a substantial market deficit in 2017, as well as strong price increases year on year.
Official cobalt metal inventories are quite limited, representing less than 1% of global demand or less than one week of consumption.
Canada is the world's third-biggest producer of cobalt, after the Congo and China, accounting for about 6% of the world mine production in 2016, according to the US Geological Survey.