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Top 20 Largest Cobalt Producing Countries

In this in-depth article, we'll research the top 20 largest cobalt producing countries to see where is cobalt found in the world and which nations own the biggest chunk of the international cobalt market. If you want to skim through and find the main global cobalt producers, go to Top 5 Largest Cobalt Producing Countries

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) overshadows other cobalt-producing nations. According to data extending from 2010 onwards, the DRC's contribution to global cobalt output has been substantial. In 2022, DRC produced 68% share of worldwide cobalt production and also has the largest cobalt reserves in the world, amounting to 4 million metric tons. 

Russia, Australia, the Philippines, and Cuba represent the second tier of the largest cobalt producing countries, albeit at a markedly lower production scale compared to Congo. However, their consistent efforts in cobalt mining contribute a considerable portion to the world's cobalt supply and play an indispensable role in maintaining the balance of the metal's availability.

According to The Faraday Institution (an independent research institute in the UK), Australia, currently a comparatively minor cobalt producer, is set to experience substantial growth in cobalt production, anticipated to contribute 14% of global demand by 2030.

Europe is projected to increase its cobalt production output to a noteworthy 15% of global demand by 2030, a figure particularly striking Europe's low current cobalt production levels. The projected increase is mostly attributed to heightened efforts in cobalt recycling, alongside prospective growth in mining activities. 

How Long Will Cobalt Reserves Last?

As the global community transitions towards the adoption of fully electric vehicles (EVs), there is an irrefutable necessity to address the predicted surge in demand for cobalt. As per The Faraday Institution, this transition is projected to reach an annual procurement of 0.52 million metric tons of cobalt to manufacture EV batteries and other products by 2040 ( a marked increase from 170,000 metric tons per annum in 2021). 

Therefore, to prolong how long will cobalt reserves last, countries need a twofold proposition: an unbroken security of the cobalt supply chain and resolving the existing issues in ethical cobalt sourcing.

Recent years have seen a marked growth in research focused on improving cobalt supply chain transparency, environmental sustainability, and how is cobalt mined, and human rights practices. The Democratic Republic of Congo, having the largest cobalt production by country, is the main stakeholder in implementing environmental sustainability regarding cobalt mining. 

Moving forward, it will be essential to further develop cobalt recycling and recovery processes, as well as to explore alternative, less cobalt-intensive battery technologies. The latter has already gained traction, with companies like Tesla opting for nickel-based cathodes in their new battery cells, thereby reducing their reliance on cobalt.

Prominent Cobalt Mining Companies 

BHP Group (NYSE:BHP) is a mining giant that has boosted its nickel mining to stand solid in the boom of electric vehicles. Since NMC (nickel, manganese, cobalt) batteries employ nickel and cobalt harmoniously, BHP Group (NYSE:BHP), being the mining giant, has built a self-sufficient nickel-sulfate plant in Perth, Australia. BHP Group (NYSE:BHP) also partnered with a Silicon Valley-based AI startup to explore battery minerals (mainly cobalt), so it can stay abreast in the electrical vehicle market. 

Wheaton Precious Metals Corp (NYSE:WPM), based in Canada, is another top cobalt streamer and producer of precious metals. In 2021, Wheaton Precious Metals Corp (NYSE:WPM) finalized an agreement with Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE) to acquire a cobalt steam from Voisey's Bay, a nickel-cobalt-copper mine in Eastern Canada. Wheaton Precious Metals (NYSE: WPM) has also issued a 2021-2025 guidance for palladium and cobalt that averages at 810,000 GEOs. If you want more insights on WPM's mine expansion moves and buyouts, read a detailed report we did on it here

Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE) is a prominent company focusing on sustainable copper mining and responsible extraction so the reserves don't deplete in the near future. Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE) is also deploying efforts in its cobalt streaming projects to de-risk this metal's future exploration. 

If you want to know which mining stocks are doing well financially, take a look at 11 Best Coal Mining Stocks to Buy Today to shape your investment profile. 

What Is Cobalt Used For?

Cobalt is a strategic metal, primarily bifurcated into two sectors: metallurgical and chemical. The metallurgical segment of Cobalt consumption is found in high-temperature alloys for sophisticated weaponry and military hardware. 

Cobalt's principal use in the chemical sector resides in the sphere of rechargeable battery production. It is paramount in manufacturing batteries for portable electronic devices, including but not limited to, mobile phones and laptop computers. Cobalt for metallurgical use is primarily in high-temperature alloys, such as aerospace rotators, defense, power generation, and steel, carbide, and diamond-based tools and magnets. 

Cobalt for chemical applications is predominately used for rechargeable battery production. It serves as a significant material in batteries for mobile phones, laptop computers, and electric vehicles. Cobalt has two properties that make it ideal for battery applications. 1st, this metal has thermal stability, which is important for battery safety). Moreover, it has a high energy density that allows energy to be stored and transferred at a scale suitable for vehicle applications. 

Top 20 Largest Cobalt Producing Countries
Top 20 Largest Cobalt Producing Countries

Image by Tshekiso Tebalo from Pixabay

Methodology 

In developing our list of the top 20 largest cobalt producing countries, we adopted a comprehensive approach based on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data in its Mineral Commodity Summaries. USGS maintains the most extensive mineral databases and insights on global mine production. 

The most recent data, pulled from the 2023 summary, is the cornerstone of our analysis that helped us furnish up-to-date figures to understand where is cobalt found in the world. However, for a few countries, recent data was unavailable in the 2023 summary, so the 2018 summary filled the void for these countries. 

We took special care to ensure that the data from different years was made comparable and easy to refer back to.  

Based on our rigorous, data-centric research, here are the top 20 largest cobalt producing countries:

20. Brazil 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2019: 30 metric tons 

Brazil contributed a humble amount of 30 metric tons to global cobalt production in 2019 and secured its place as the 20th largest cobalt producer worldwide. Although we don't have documented data to show Brazil's cobalt yield in 2022, this figure indicates that it has the capacity to mine more cobalt in the foreseeable future. 

19. Zimbabwe

Cobalt Mine Production in 2019: 400 metric tons 

Zimbabwe churned out 400 metric tons of cobalt in 2019 and ranked 19th among the largest cobalt producers globally. Such contribution to the cobalt market highlights the nation's pivotal role in supplying this strategic mineral widely used in batteries for electric vehicles and other high-tech industries. 

18. United States

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 800 metric tons 

The lowest cobalt production, as per the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries 2023, was in the US. Its cobalt mining production was 800 metric tons in 2022, ranking it as the 18th largest producer. The nation also maintains substantial cobalt reserves, estimated at 69,000 metric tons, that indicate better yield in the future.  

17. Mexico

Cobalt Mine Production in 2019: 1,100 metric tons 

According to data, Mexico's cobalt production in 2019 reached 1100 metric tons. This cobalt mine throughput places Mexico as the 17th largest global producer of this critical mineral and gives the country a stable position in the global cobalt market. 

16. Finland 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2019: 1,454 metric tons 

Finland demonstrated substantial cobalt production capabilities in 2019 by generating an output of 1,454 metric tons. This quantity was extracted primarily from cobalt-rich nickel ores and affirmed Finland's position as a noteworthy player in the mining sector.

15. New Caledonia 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2019: 1,600 metric tons 

New Caledonia produced approximately 1,600 metric tons of cobalt in 2019 from its rich lateritic nickel ore deposits, which are noteworthy for their cobalt byproduct. This output also reflects New Caledonia's importance in supporting the escalating demand for cobalt as it's being excessively used in EVs. 

14. China

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 2,200 metric tons 

Despite being a mining giant in most metals, China's cobalt footprint is heavily overshadowed. It produced 2,200 metric tons of cobalt in 2022 and proved to be the 14th largest cobalt production by country. China's cobalt reserves also stand at a significant 0.14 million metric tons, which illustrates its role within the broader context of international cobalt production.

13. Morocco 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 2,300 metric tons 

Owing to its resource-intensive mining operations, Morocco ranked 13th among the largest cobalt producing countries. Its notable mining output reached 2,300 metric tons in 2022. Such throughout is surely supported by substantial cobalt reserves of 13,000 metric tons. But based on these stats, it's evident that the nation's mining industry is fast-tracking its exploitation efforts. 

12. South Africa 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2019: 2,400 metric tons 

Another major cobalt mining country we don't see in the USGS 2023 summary is South Africa. But as per the USGS 2020 report, South Africa yielded 2,400 metric tons of cobalt in 2019. The country is the 12th largest global cobalt producer because of its substantial cache of cobalt reserves, estimated at 50,000 metric tons. 

11. Turkey 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 2,700 metric tons

Turkey bolstered its global cobalt footprint by producing 2,700 metric tons in 2022 and earned 11th rank amongst top cobalt producers. Backed by substantial reserves approximating 36,000 metric tons, Turkey's vigorous cobalt mining industry forms an integral part of this metal's market. 

10. Zambia 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2017: 2,900 metric tons 

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) 2018 data, Zambia yielded 2,900 metric tons of cobalt in 2017. This number amounts to the 10th-highest yield in cobalt mining. The country also holds cobalt reserves estimated at 0.27 million metric tons that will increase its mining yield in the near future. 

9. Papua New Guinea 

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 3,000 metric tons 

Papua New Guinea has claimed a consistent share in cobalt production for the past decade. In 2022, it was the 9th largest global cobalt producer because of the 3000 metric tons of cobalt yield. Papua New Guinea's cobalt reserves are 47,000 metric tons, which will impact this metal's escalating demand. 

8. Madagascar

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 3,000 metric tons  

Madagascar yielded 3,000 metric tons of cobalt in 2022, owing to its detailed mining operations. But despite having the same cobalt throughput as Papua New Guinea, it's ranked 8th amongst the largest cobalt producing countries because of its reserves. According to USGS, Madagascar has 0.1 million metric tons of cobalt reserves, which makes it a more stable player in this race.  

7. Philippines

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 3,800 metric tons 

The Philippines is the world's seventh-largest cobalt producer based on its cobalt mine production of 3,800 metric tons in 2022. USGS report indicates that the country holds reserves estimated at 0.26 million metric tons that reinforce its key role in the broader spectrum. 

6. Cuba

Cobalt Mine Production in 2022: 3,800 metric tons 

Cuba produced 3,800 metric tons of cobalt in 2022 and reached the rank of the 6th largest global producer. It has been established through rigorous analysis that Cuba hosts significant cobalt reserves estimated at 0.5 million metric tons, indicative of its potential for future production. 

Click to continue reading Top 5 Largest Cobalt Producing Countries.

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Disclosure: None. Top 20 Largest Cobalt Producing Countries is originally published on Insider Monkey. 

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