German miners once called cobalt ‘kobold’ because it reminded them of troublesome gnomes, or so the story goes. These fictitious creatures were notorious for making themselves invisible, and then reappearing as small children. One goblin type had a reputation for haunting underground places. The miners blamed these mythical creatures for covering over gold and silver with valueless goblin cobalt.
Since Then, Goblin Cobalt Has Become Collectible
Since then, the goblin cobalt has become valuable as a critical component for lithium batteries. Kit Chellel and Mark Burton wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek on December 27, 2018 about a daring business hike.
According to them, the Vollers Group company had been stockpiling cobalt near the Nieuwe Maas River in Rotterdam to the extent it was challenging China. The logistics firm may have been hoping the 30% value rise from 2016 to 2018 would continue.
On a day perhaps six months ago the Vollers Group invited a group of bankers, brokers, journalists and others with vested interests to boast about its security arrangements.
We’ve Never Had a Problem But It Pays to Be Careful
“We’ve never had a problem with theft,” a Vollers manager told his audience. “But it pays to be careful,” he added as he pointed out the alarm system, secured by a PIN code. An assistant unlocked a door and revealed hundreds of orange and blue drums piled four-high on pallets.
Each of the drums was crammed full of cobalt nuggets. The estimated 3,000 tons might have added a full $260 million to the Vollers Group balance sheet. We say ‘might have’ because the goblin cobalt was about to strike.
A few months later, an employee arrived at the warehouse in the morning to find the padlock to the cobalt store missing. He called the boss who called the police who found two things gone.
These two things were the recording unit for the security cameras, and 112 tons of cobalt worth $10 million. Getting 112 tons of anything out of a high security environment must be something of a record. And all for the sake of lithium batteries.
Preview Image: Nieuwe Maas River, Rotterdam