Cobalt Could Become Cuba’s Blue Gold
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.
Cuban economist Joaquin Benavides Rodriguez, who has served as government minister and leader of his country’s communist party in the area of his specialty, believes that Cuba has in cobalt a great mineral wealth that, like lithium, is becoming a strategic mineral for the production of batteries in the electronic age.
According to international sources, Cuba has reserves of this mineral of around half a million metric tons that place it in third place in the world among the thirteen countries with the largest estimated reserves of cobalt on the planet. It is estimated that the largest is the Democratic Republic of Congo with an estimated reserve of 3.4 million metric tons, followed by Australia with 1.2 million and Cuba appears in third place. Next are the Philippines with 280,000, Canada and Russia with 250,000 each, China with 80,000 and the United States with 38,000, according to data from the German statistical portal Statista 2019 cited by the Cuban expert.
World consumption of cobalt in 2019 is estimated to be 122,000 tons. In 2011 it was 78,000 tons, an increase of 56% in 8 years. The price in 2019 is quoted at more than 46 thousand dollars per ton. The largest extraction is recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has had years to extract 90,000 tons. Russia extracts 5.9 thousand tons.
China is the largest producer of refined cobalt. It contributes 43% of the world total according to the British consultancy Euromonitor International, cited by Benavides.
A few years ago the world produced more of this metal than it was consumed. However, from 2017 onwards, with the increase in demand, prices soared by almost 100%.
Cobalt has a great demand in large producers of electronic effects such as TESLA that requires it to improve the performance of their electric cars. Or Apple, which uses it for the batteries of the IPhones, which produces massively in China.
The reason is that cobalt enhances the qualities of other metals such as lithium which has become the most used component in batteries. Until the last decade this metal had gone unnoticed but about three years ago aroused the interest of the financial world. Before the use of lithium and cobalt batteries became widespread, the companies that made large alloys were the ones that made the greatest use of this metal.
Today these companies have been displaced by battery manufacturers, which each year account for 45% of global production of cobalt, whose demand recorded annual growths of at least 5% for a decade, according to the president of the Cobalt Development Institute (CDI) in the United States, David Weight, quotes Benavides.
The interest increased even more when TESLA announced a model of electric vehicle and inaugurated a mega factory that will allow it to supply 35GWh of battery power. That is to say, a greater volume of production than the total realized in 2014.
There are currently another 13 mega battery factories of different brands in the construction or planning phase.
China needs cobalt to manufacture portable and cellular products within its borders, according to BBC World Euromonitor Economics and Consumer Analyst Oru Mohiuddin.
Nearly half of the planet’s households have a smartphone and a laptop and this is expected to increase by at least 70% by 2030.
A large concentration of the factories that manufacture these products is in China.
Cobalt is Cuba’s most strategic mineral. In the refinery that the island has in Canada together with the company Sherrit, 15% of the world cobalt is produced with a 99.98 purity.
It is a metal that stores a lot of energy in a small space. Its applications in medicine are important and in the blades of turbines or jet engines of all aircraft are used cobalt alloys, for its ability to resist sudden changes in temperature on which the action of the engine fluid is exerted.
The Government of China has been launching a great global investment program, called the Silk Road and the Silk Road, mainly for Asia, Europe and Africa, but there are also Latin American countries that have raised their interest in participating.
Benavides considers that perhaps the moment is coming when “the Government of our country raises with the Chinese authorities Cuba’s interest in participating in this great investment project of the Silk Road, particularly with regard to the extraction and refining of cobalt in the mining area of Moa”.
Cuba’s interest in investing jointly with countries such as Japan and Germany, with highly developed industrial economies in advanced technologies that lack cobalt, could also be raised.
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