The global cobalt market size was valued at USD 8712 million in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 19,470 million by 2030 at a CAGR of 9.3% from 2022 to 2030.
Cobalt — a critical raw material in various industries — is a by-product of copper or nickel mining. It has been in use for at least the last 2,600 years as a source of blue pigments in ceramics and ancient Egyptian glassware. Since then, the uses of cobalt have evolved, with many significantly contributing to a sustainable planet, such as its vital role in rechargeable batteries.
The consumption of cobalt is expected to grow in the near future, owing to its impressive properties, such as high-temperature resilience, hardness, process efficiency, energy storage, and other environmental benefits. Cobalt is a bio-essential element and extensively used in orthopedic implants and the healthcare industry as a rich source of vitamin B12. Recent R&D in cobalt's novel applications in artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, and digital processing are expected to drive the global cobalt market in the coming years.
Cobalt is a key element for the integrated circuits and batteries of portable devices such as smartphones and laptops. Furthermore, it finds extensive application in the strong permanent magnets used in wind turbines and superalloys used in aerospace and defense applications. The U.S. aerospace and defence industry generated USD 151,000 million from exports in 2018, up from USD 135,000 million in 2013, as per the Aerospace Industries Association. Accordingly, the cobalt consumption during the forecast period will be high in the U.S. cause of the growing exports and strong aerospace and defence sector.
Cobalt is a naturally occurring mineral that exhibits strong resistance. It finds a plethora of applications in many industries. Companies are investing in the R&D of new ways to reap benefits and increase productivity. For instance, cobalt chrome alloys are used in orthopedic and dental implants due to their biocompatibility and high corrosion and wear resistance. Statistics from the American Academy of Implant Dentistry states that more than 500,000 dental implants are placed every year in the U.S.
Our analysis concludes that the cobalt market presents ample opportunities and is currently in the growth phase. It is anticipated to grow significantly during the forecast period, backed by the blend of cobalt with technological advancements in several industries. For the purpose of our study, we have classified cobalt end-users into electronics, healthcare, aerospace, industrial process, automotive, and others. The automotive industry is projected to register the strongest growth, supported by the shift to electric vehicles.
Cobalt remains essential to an electric future and is extensively used in the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries around the globe. Rising consumer awareness for environmental protection and stricter government norms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions have led to a consumer shift toward electric vehicles. Electric car batteries require 5–15 kilograms of the metal, almost a thousand times more than the amount used in smartphone batteries.
Currently, around 50% of cobalt production is intended for rechargeable batteries, allowing industries to develop electric transportation systems that contribute substantially to tackling emissions, climate change, and global warming. The growing deployment of electric cars around the world is a driving factor of the automotive sector in the global cobalt market.
Cobalt plays a crucial role in the stationary rechargeable batteries used for storing renewable energy from solar and wind sources. Colossal growth has been observed in the installation of solar capacities for various residential and non-residential purposes in the U.S. As per the Solar Energy Industries Association, the total solar capacity installed in 2018 for residential purposes was 13,027 MWdc, which grew to 15,850 MWdc in 2019.
Cobalt is a bio essential element in enabling the development of renewable biogas plants, a small amount of cobalt enhances the production of biogas. The residue is then utilized in sustainable agriculture methods. Emerging uses of cobalt from solar and wind energy as a catalyst in industrial processes are propelling the global cobalt market.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading like wildfire with no signs of slowing down, it has adversely impacted many industries around the world, including the mining and energy industries. The operations and supply chains of leading players in the global cobalt market have been drastically affected. For instance, the nationwide lockdown announced by governments of multiple countries, such as Canada, Chad, Colombia, and many others, has led to disruptions in international mobility, transportation, and supply chains.
Glencore's, a leading player in the cobalt market, and a wholly owned subsidiary, PetroChad (Mangara) Limited, had to cease production at their Badila and Mangara oil fields. Apart from this, the demand from key importers of cobalt, i.e. China, has witnessed a sharp fall due to the halt in operations, which is affecting the overall supply and demand.
The regional analysis has been made considering mining activities and the regions that are rich with mineral deposits of cobalt. North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, the Middle East, and Africa are the key geographies studied in the report.
Central Africa decisively dominates the global cobalt market owing to almost USD 24 trillion in untapped deposits of cobalt, copper, diamond, and gold in the region. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is popular for its mineral industry as the country is rich with mineral deposits and a key contributor to global mining production. It is observing growth in the cobalt market as it enjoys abundant foreign investments; more than 25 mining companies actively operate across the country at present. The below figure depicts the global cobalt reserves for the year 2017 with DRC accounting for 50%, followed by Australia with 17%.
In 2017, DRC's cobalt exports alone generated USD 1,900 million, accounting for 26% of the country's total mineral exports. Prominent countries in Asia-Pacific, such as China, Japan, India, South Korea, Singapore, and many others, also drive the cobalt market. The below figure depicts the top importers of cobalt for the year 2017, with Asia as the largest and Europe as the second-largest importer.
Europe is expected to hold the second-largest market share on account of stringent emission regulations pertaining to passenger and commercial vehicles and industrial machinery. For instance, the Euro 6d European emission standard was implemented in January 2020 for light commercial vehicles. Various European cities, such as Paris, Hamburg, and Madrid, have banned diesel vehicles, prompting consumers to use alternatives and, ultimately, augmenting the regional production of rechargeable batteries.
In the study, we have profiled key players operating in the global cobalt market. Our analysis indicates that these players engage in partnerships and agreements between various end-use industries to reap measurable benefits. Multiple companies have forged sales agreements with players from end-user industries, such as automotive and electronics, to secure sales for the future.
Companies are focusing on vertical integration and acquiring subsidiaries of other players involved in the cobalt value chain. For instance, Wheaton Precious Metals™ Corp. acquired the cobalt stream of Vale S.A. for an amount of cobalt equal to 42.4% of Voisey's Bay mine cobalt production, until the delivery of USD 40.92 million worth of cobalt, and an amount of cobalt equal to 21.2% of cobalt production thereafter for the life of the mine. As a result, companies are practicing backward integration and securing the smooth supply of raw materials.
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