Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s main source of Cobalt— a ferromagnetic metal with a specific gravity of 8.9, a Curie temperature of 1,115 °C (2,039 °F) and a magnetic moment of 1.6–1.7 Bohr magnetons per atom. For a very long time Democratic Republic of Congo has known no competition in the cobalt market, this has been to its detriment.
In 2015, DRC supplied 60% of the world production of 32,000 tons at prices of $20,000 to $26,000 per ton, including artisanal mining which supplied 10 to 25% by 2016, this number has almost doubled to 66,000 metric tons of cobalt produced.
DRC produces more than half of the world’s cobalt, eight times more than its closest competitor. Yet, it remains one of the world’s poorest countries because only 6% of the revenue garnered from mining exports make it to the national coffers.
Cobalt, the fast becoming core ingredients of our technology-driven lifestyles used to be just a by-product of nickel and copper mining and smelting. However, instability in DR Congo is driving some investors to look to much smaller but more reliable cobalt sources.
Amongst those pulling of out DRC’s Cobalt industry is First Cobalt, a Toronto mining company. Just months after the company signed a deal over copper and cobalt prospecting in the country, First Cobalt announced that it would be pulling out of DR Congo “The DRC remains very appealing geologically but the investment climate has deteriorated since the strategic alliance was announced and we have significantly expanded our footprint in Canada,” the company said.
Earlier this year, Canada noticed a cobalt rush, starting in the town of Cobalt, Ontario—named for the mineral that was discovered there. More than a century ago, the region was the site of an old-fashioned silver rush, but its resources were soon eclipsed by Africa’s offering.
With over a dozen mining companies staking their claim in Ontario, prospectors are beginning to return to the town of Cobalt. Noted Northern Prospectors Association. However, DRC has not been completely ruled out as some other companies like Madini Minerals—a Johannesburg-based company—are sticking it out.
We maintain that if you want to become a player in the cobalt market, you need to be in the DRC, the risk is all political, but political risk is a very subjective view that people take and DRC has had a more stable investment legislation than many other countries.” said Mandini Minerals’ Ilja Graulich.
First Cobalt CEO, Trent Mell, on the other hand has a different opinion of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining industry. According to him “I don’t think in 10 years the Congo is going to be as significant and with the signals we’re getting, why would we invest our scarce dollars in a country that may not respect our investment rights?.