Cobalt Prices Fall Due to Supply Growth and Chinese Demand SlumpBy Karin Dilge | Tue, 08/09/2022 - 18:21
The Cobalt Institute (CI) revealed data indicating that the global cobalt supply will increase in 2022, while global demand for electric vehicles (EV) drops as the battery industry experiences a slump, particularly in China. The result is a drop in cobalt prices
According to CI, the global automotive market is facing growing pressure, mainly because of a lack of semiconductors, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, inflation and COVID-19 lockdowns in China, the world’s main cobalt consumer.
The institute pointed out that cobalt is essential for EV batteries, which in turn are imperative for the energy transition. “It is identified as a critical raw material and is part of the solution to achieving climate neutrality,” said Sarah Schneider, Policy and Communications Officer, CI. By 2050, the demand for cobalt is expected to increase by 350 percent, she added.
Although cobalt demand maintained its stride in 2Q22, growth rates are slow. In China, sales of electric vehicles rose 7 percent quarter to quarter, while sales of EVs in Western Europe fell 1 percent.
On the other hand, supply is forecasted to increase, and cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the main global cobalt producer, is expected to be stronger. Forecasts point to a 26 percent production increase in 2022 in comparison to the 12 percent production growth in 2021. Last year, DRC produced 120,000 tons of cobalt, supplying 70 percent of cobalt global production.
In terms of cobalt prices, due to prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai, the Chinese prices of the metal constantly decreased during most of 2Q22, said CI. At the end of June, Chinese prices were US$25/lb, US$10/lb below the European level.
As China is one of the main global consumers of precious metals, the deterioration of the pandemic is one of the key factors keeping down prices, said Wenyu Yao, Analyst, ING. Other key minerals such as copper and gold have experienced price variations, mainly due to geopolitical issues.
Recently, the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) updated its outlook for copper in 2022 and determined that global demand is expected to fall 1.9 percent. However, global production is expected to increase by 4.3 percent in 2022 and 3.6 percent in 2023, mainly due to new mines and a more manageable global pandemic. Consequently, the world copper market is expected to record a surplus of 142,000 tons in 2022 and 352,000 tons in 2023.
Meanwhile, the gold spot price rose 0.2 percent last Tuesday for the fifth time in a row to US$1,775.29/oz. In addition, US gold futures gained 0.2 percent, rising to US$1,791.10/oz. Several economic factors, including falling interest rates in the US, are influencing the spot prices by driving demand, experts say.