Batteries are firmly ahead in the race to supply sustainable energy. Fresh from enabling wind and solar, they are now galloping across the transportation landscape. Moreover, conventional electricity generation is on the back foot. Could batteries become the key to global dominance? The Australian newspaper thinks China is racing ahead with controlling scarce raw materials.
Why China is Racing Ahead with Raw Materials
Cobalt is an essential ingredient in lithium-ion cathodes, because lithium intercalates between layers of cobalt. Nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries furthermore also use cobalt to improve oxidation of nickel.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 53% of global cobalt. China (6.2%), Canada (5.8%), Russia (4.9%), Australia (4.0%), and Zambia (3.7%) follow. Then Cuba, Philippines, Madagascar, and New Caledonia bring up the rear of the top 10 global cobalt producers.
China is racing ahead by purchasing most of Democratic Republic of Congo’s production. It already supplies most U.S. cobalt. This has significant strategic implications for the race to control electric car production.
Why China is Aggressively Purchasing So Much Cobalt
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a politically unstable, landlocked country with a questionable human rights record. Because it uses children in its army, and to hand-dig cobalt in tunnels deep underground.
The country could collapse into another civil war at any moment. This is why China is quietly purchasing its cobalt production through small-scale intermediaries. This is happening at a faster rate than the United States and other countries. China is racing ahead with acquiring stockpiles of lithium too.
Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence told CNBC ‘China wants to control the electric vehicle supply chain’. Western countries have yet to show the same degree of interest. But then they have been moving away from manufacturing to service economies for quite some time.
Preview Image: Raw Cobalt