Glencore closes biggest cobalt mine in the world
Mining giant Glencore has announced that it will close the largest cobalt mine in the world. The price of cobalt has decreased, and the offer is starting to exceed the demand.
In a letter to the personnel, British-Swiss mining giant Glencore has announced closing its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The announcement has been made public by the Belgian newspaper Financial Times.
Mutanda is the biggest cobalt mine in the world. Glencore recently announced disappointing financial results because of the collapsed price for cobalt. The winning of cobalt is now so abundant that Glencore has to go out and look for potential buyers.
Furthermore, the rules in Congo have changed recently, and foreign mining companies have to pay much more taxes than before. It makes mines like Mutanda unprofitable, says Glencore.
For years, the world has been sounding the alarm bell about cobalt. The material is highly necessary for batteries of all kinds, as well as for tablets, mobile phones, and (electric) cars. That’s why demand and thus also prices were soaring, and many people tried to benefit from the hype.
This also caused social and ethical uproar. Cobalt was or is mainly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where security rules aren’t very stringent, and where children are working in the mines too. Especially in the practically uncontrolled smaller mines.
All over the world, scientists are working hard to develop new batteries free of cobalt. It’s still relatively expensive, and the mining companies or their customers don’t like the moral implications and severe critics of exploitation linked with it.
A pioneer in the development of lithium-ion battery cells (containing cobalt) is Jeff Dahn. In an interview with YouTuber Sean Mitchell, he talks about the progress made toward cheaper and cobalt-free batteries.
Tesla goes for cobalt-free
The EV car manufacturer, Tesla, declared a few years ago that it wants its batteries to be free of cobalt as soon as possible. Already now, the amount of cobalt used has been drastically reduced. The aim is to have a cobalt-free battery production within five years.
Jeff Dahn has committed himself to Tesla with a 5-year contract with the engagement to find the best possible technology for battery packs that are denser in energy, support more charging cycles, are cheaper, and completely cobalt-free.
Battery prices at 100 dollars per kWh
He claims that in a few years the battery price will have fallen to 100 dollars (± 90 euros) per kWh. This means that the price of a Tesla Model S, for example, could shrink by 20.000 to 30.000 dollars. A small Li-ion battery (14,5 kWh) for a town car, like the Peugeot iOn, would cost less than 1.300 euros.