What Is Cobalt And Where Do I Use It?
- Cobalt is a relatively abundant metal element which is almost always found in combination with other naturally occurring minerals.
- It is naturally occurring and exists in the environment in soil/dust/rocks and in vegetation. It is an essential dietary element for the growth of animals and micro-organisms.
Metallurgical applications include:
- Cobalt’s exceptional high temperature strength and corrosion-resistance make it an essential alloying element for jet engine and electrical power generation turbines (improving combustibility and reducing fuel consumption), specialty high strength steel for medical/scientific instrumentation and hard facing alloys in abrasive applications (e.g. bulldozer scoops).
- Other uses are orthopaedic hip and knee implants, jewellery for fine detailed casting, as a binding agent for hard metal (tungsten and diamond) cutting and drilling tools or in permanent magnets for ABS breaking systems in automobiles.
Chemical applications include:
- rechargeable batteries (for electric/hybrid cars and in portable electronic devices
- catalysts to reduce energy consumption and increase productivity of industrial processes, and for the production of low sulphur fuels and synthetic fibres
- as an essential nutrient in animal feed and in biotechnology processes for diagnostics and pharmaceuticals
- Other uses are pigments (the well-known ‘Cobalt blue’), semi-conductors and other electronic components, alternative energy producing technologies such as solar panels, fuel cells and wind turbines
Where is Cobalt Produced?
- Cobalt’s estimated worldwide production is ~100,000 metric tonnes with cobalt reserves in the Central Africa (50%), Australasia (24%), Americas (10%), Russia (3%), and the ROW (13%).
- The main source of refined cobalt is as a by-product of nickel (~50 %) and copper (~44%) which are in abundant supply, while a minority (~6%) is from primary cobalt mines.
Specific Issues for Cobalt
- Cobalt is a ‘technology enabler’ used mostly in the workplace and is indispensable to enhance the many metallurgical and chemical applications.
- Cobalt cannot be substituted in most of its key applications, due to its unique properties and it adds to the quality of our everyday lives by contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emission, and to alternative and high-tech technologies.
- The potential socio-economic impact and regulatory efficiency of policies or regulatory measures on critical raw materials must be well understood before they are proposed