In recent years, interest in cobalt has increased due to its use in lithium-ion batteries used to power electric cars.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the world’s largest producer of cobalt by far, with its output reaching 95,000 tonnes last year — almost 60 percent of global supply.
For investors who want to learn more about the sector, here’s an overview of the world’s largest cobalt mines, according to the most recent data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Total 2020 production: 23,900 tonnes
The Kamoto copper-cobalt mine, which is located in the DRC province of Katanga, is operated by Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) subsidiary Katanga Mining.
Cobalt production at Kamoto was up 40 percent in 2020 over the previous year. Production at the mine has been incrementally increasing since commercial operations first began in 2007.
In early 2021, Glencore inked a 5-year supply contract cobalt hydroxide from Kamoto with cobalt refiner First Cobalt Corp. (TSXV:FCC, OTCQX: FTSSF).
2. Tenke Fungurume
Total 2020 production: 15,440 tonnes
The Tenke Fungurume mine, which is located in DRC’s Lualaba province, is 80 percent owned by China Molybdenum (OTC Pink:CMCLF,SHA:603993) and 20 percent owned by state mining company Gecamines.
Tenke Fungurume has been struggling to meet production targets due to falling metal prices combined with higher taxes and royalties implemented by the African country. Production in 2020 fell by more than 650 tonnes from 2019 levels. In addition to its cobalt output, the mine is the DRC’s largest copper producer.
3. Metalkol RTR
Total 2020 production: 10,500 tonnes
The Metalkol RTR hydrometallurgical cobalt and copper facility, which is located in the Haut-Katanga province, is operated by Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) Africa.
Metalkol RTR reprocesses historical cobalt-copper tailings that were accumulated over decades of mining by previous operators. This includes the existing Kingamyambo tailings deposit and those in the Musonoi River. The goal is to reduce local pollution by relocating legacy tailings to a responsibly managed facility.
ERG has committed to Responsible Minerals Assurance Process, a flagship programme of the Responsible Minerals Initiative. The company is actively involved in ending child labor in the Congo’s mining industry.
Total 2020 production: 7,000 tonnes
In 2003, private company Chemaf was granted the mining rights to Etoile, which produces copper and cobalt oxides and sulfates. Artisanal miners worked the area until 2000, when the Ruashi-Etoile concession, located in Katanga province, was divided and offered to private investors.
Chemaf, which is owned by Shalina Resources, is also constructing a processing plant to produce up to 16,000 tonnes of cobalt at its Mutoshi mine in Katanga province.
Total 2020 production: 5,390 tonnes
Luiswishi copper-cobalt mine, which is also located in Katanga province, is a medium-size open-pit mine close to the province’s capital city.
The site was one of the first cobalt mines in the region, with production dating back to 1900. Today, the mine is owned by Chinese firm Congo Dongfang International Mining. The company reportedly invested US$147.2 million in the project in 2018.
Other top cobalt-producing mines
These are just five of the top fifteen producing cobalt mines, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Rounding out the top ten are:
- three DRC mines—Ruashi (5,090 tonnes in 2020), Lubumbashi Slag Hill (4,000 tonnes) and Mutoshi (4,000 tonnes);
- Cuba’s Moa Bay (3,370 tonnes); and
- Papua New Guinea’s Ramu (2,940 tonnes).
The last five on the list are not far behind Ramu, and include:
- Australia’s Murrin Murrin mine (2,900 tonnes);
- Madagascar’s Ambatovy (2,860 tonnes);
- Russia’s Polar Division (2,700 tonnes);
- the Phillipines’ Taganito (2,550 tonnes); and
- Morocco’s Bou-Azer (2,420 tonnes).
This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2019.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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