Canadian-based cobalt miner International Cobalt Corp. says worsening political instability and justice issues over the alleged exploitation of child labour by some cobalt producers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is forcing some tech companies to seek alternative supplies of the metal from stable, law-abiding countries in North America.
In a statement released on March 5, the company said driven by demand from electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, cobalt prices have surged to around US$80 000 per tonne since mid-2015. However, increasing politically instability and the proposed increase in mineral taxes in the DRC are forcing consumer companies to seek alternative sources from cobalt miners in the US and Canada.
The company said it noted the release of the US Geological Survey Report on the Critical Mineral Resources of the United States, which list cobalt among the 23 crucial supply chain minerals.
Further, it said the political and legislative crises affecting mining in the DRC has provided US companies with new opportunities to ramp up production and emerge as alternative cobalt suppliers.
“The USGS report indicates that there is currently no material cobalt production in the US, with a key objective being to diversify global supply chains to mitigate supply risk. The report specifically outlines the Blackbird District in East-Central Idaho as a major area of cobalt mineral deposits.
“eCobalt Solution’s Idaho Cobalt Project is the only advanced stage, near term, environmentally permitted, primary cobalt producing project in the United States,” the company said.
International Cobalt president Timothy Johnson welcomed the USGS findings classifying cobalt as a critical metal for the Unites States. He said recent moves by vehicle and IT equipment manufacturers to secure cobalt directly from miners could advance its objective of replacing the DRC as the global supplier of ethical cobalt ores.