Cobalt Production Landscape Shift: Indonesia’s Impact Grows

Cobalt production, a crucial component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), is witnessing a significant shift in the global landscape. For years, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has held the title of the world's largest cobalt producer, contributing 73% of the global output in 2022. However, recent projections by the Cobalt Institute indicate that the DRC's dominance is set to decrease to 57% by 2030, as Indonesia rapidly expands its cobalt production as a byproduct from its burgeoning nickel industry.
In a remarkable development, Indonesia surpassed established producers such as Australia and the Philippines in 2022, accounting for nearly 5% of the global cobalt production. In just one year, Indonesia’s cobalt production soared from 2,700 tonnes in 2021 to almost 9,500 tonnes in 2022. Moreover, the nation is aiming to increase its production by an astonishing tenfold by 2030.

The global cobalt production for 2022 reached 197,791 tonnes, with the DRC contributing just under 145,000 tonnes to the overall mix. As the electric vehicle industry continues its exponential growth, it remains the largest consumer of cobalt, currently accounting for approximately 40% of the total demand. With the EV sector expected to expand further, global cobalt demand is projected to double by 2030, reaching a staggering 388,000 tonnes.

However, the shift in cobalt production is not without its challenges. Plummeting cobalt prices, experiencing a nearly 30% decline to $13.90 per pound, have severely impacted the DRC. The volatile market situation has raised concerns about the economic sustainability of cobalt production in the region.

Furthermore, cobalt’s long-term prospects face additional hurdles due to efforts to reduce its use in batteries. These efforts are partly driven by human rights concerns associated with artisanal cobalt mining in the DRC, which has been linked to child labor and human rights abuses. In 2021, a federal court in Washington ruled in favor of tech giants including Google parent Alphabet, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla, relieving them from a class-action lawsuit claiming their responsibility for alleged child labor in Congolese cobalt mines.

Despite ongoing efforts to find substitutes for cobalt in battery applications, experts predict that cobalt will remain an indispensable raw material for the entire battery supply chain in the near future. The increasing demand for EVs and the crucial role cobalt plays in their batteries solidify its importance.

In conclusion, Indonesia’s emergence as a formidable cobalt producer and the DRC’s projected decrease in dominance signify a changing landscape in the global cobalt market. While challenges persist, the continued growth of the EV industry ensures that cobalt will remain a vital resource in the coming years, creating opportunities for both countries to contribute significantly to the clean energy revolution.

Source: Elements by Visual Capitalist

Source: Elements by Visual Capitalist
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