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Batteries: Southern Africa will remain critical to battery material supply chains

Commentaries & Views

During the 121 Mining Investment event in Cape Town last week, David Merriman, manager of Roskill’s Battery and Electric Vehicle division, discussed the importance of African sourced battery materials. Southern Africa holds resources of all the major battery materials used in lithium-ion technologies, including nickel, lithium and copper, though the concentration of cobalt resources in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo places the region in a unique position.

Whilst media reports on the DRC elections raised concerns over possible supply disruptions in the world’s biggest cobalt producing nation, Roskill’s recent visit to a number of cobalt and copper operations in the country revealed it is business as usual. Increased cobalt production at DRC operations and at artisanal sites, incentivised by higher cobalt prices in 2018, have also created stockpiles of material which will likely shield against any future mine supply shocks. Significant Chinese investment has, and will continue, to increase cobalt hydroxide capacity, largely destined for refined producers in China.

Efforts to reduce the cobalt content of cathode materials and reduce the demand pressure on the cobalt market are taking effect, with a shift to higher nickel cathodes in electric vehicle. Competition from non-cobalt containing cathode materials such as lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) is also expected to slow cobalt demand growth. Despite these mitigating factors, the overall increase in vehicle battery production volumes will require further investment in cobalt refining capacity beyond the mid-2020s.

To discuss the lithium-ion battery industry with Roskill, contact Jose Lazuen: jose@roskill.com or Nessa Zhang: nessa@roskill.com

To discuss the cobalt market with Roskill, contact Jack Bedder: jack@roskill.com or Ying Lu ying@roskill.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.