Cobalt’s shift to battery grade needed an independent price to reflect it

by Caspar Rawles @CDMRawles

Since I began my role as cobalt analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence in September 2016, cobalt has undergone a meteoric rise which continues to this day.

Prices have more than doubled and are still experiencing upward pressure, with the mineral being tipped by many investors as the hot prospect of 2017.

As one of the critical minerals in lithium-ion battery cathodes, cobalt has seen growing demand from batteries particularly used in electric vehicles (EVs) which reached a tipping point this year.

Whilst many are aware of cobalt’s recent price surge, the price that is commonly referenced is that of cobalt metal; a product which is prevalent in traditional industrial uses but does not appear in a lithium-ion battery.

Cobalt’s use in lithium ion has risen from a niche tertiary market, accounting for 20% of the market size in 2006, to the main driver for the industry in 2016 with 52% of all cobalt units being used in batteries.

This shift in the way the market operates has increased the need to understand the supply dynamics of the battery grade chemicals especially precursors like cobalt sulphate (sulfate) and cobalt hydroxide.

Whilst the metal price remains of importance, the industry is facing new future that is being dictated by batteries.

At Benchmark in 2014 we foresaw a need for a new reference point for those in the industry. Cobalt’s shift to battery grade needed a price to reflect it and after years of planning and research, this is what Benchmark now provides.

Chart : Cobalt sulphate price trend in China

For more detail on cobalt prices, subscribe by emailing Caspar Rawles (crawles@benchmarkminerals.com)

After the success of Benchmark‘s lithium and graphite price assessments we have launched the new battery focussed cobalt subscription: Benchmark Data | Cobalt.

The monthly cobalt market tracker is dedicated to analysing the cobalt mining to lithium ion battery supply chain. It provides price estimates for what is commonly considered the commodity of the cobalt chemical industry, cobalt sulphate, and analysis on cobalt hydroxide and other key chemical trends.

With such momentum gathered by the energy storage revolution and rise of the EV, changes in the cobalt market are only set to accelerate as supply chains mature and the race for EV dominance intensifies.

The Benchmark Data series of services which now include cobalt, lithium and graphite are the first port of call for the most accurate and relevant independent price estimates.

For more information on Benchmark Data | Cobalt please contact Caspar Rawles on crawles@benchmarkminerals.com

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