Recycling Cobalt


"With no domestic production, the U.S. is 100% dependent on imports."

Cobalt Investing News, Damon van der Linde

cobaltThe U.S. has no domestic cobalt production—it's 100% dependent on imports for its supply of primary cobalt. So, if developers want to continue using it, they'll have to find new sources, like recycling existing batteries.

With the recent strong support for EVs, cobalt use in this sector alone has led to formidable demand.

Cobalt made the short list of four metals that the EU chose to name as representative of the 40 metals it classifies as "critical." The U.S. is the world’s largest cobalt consumer and considers it a strategic metal. In 2005, the DRC's copper deposits were the top producers of cobalt with almost 40% of the world share, and much of this is being exported by Chinese investors.

Currently, about 15% of U.S. cobalt consumption is from recycled scrap. Improvements in recycling technology have the potential to not only reduce environmental impacts associated with extraction and production, but also possibly a significant reduction in cost.

Cobalt-bearing scrap is generated during manufacture in applications including catalysts used by the petroleum and chemical industries, cemented carbides used in cutting and wear-resistant applications, rechargeable batteries and super-alloys, magnetic and wear-resistant alloys, and tool steels. Depending on the type and quality of the scrap, it might be recycled within the industry sector that generated it, processed to reclaim the cobalt as a cobalt chemical or metal powder, downgraded by using it as a substitute for nickel or iron in an alloy with a lower cobalt content, or processed to an intermediate form that would then either be further refined or downgraded.

The products of recycled cobalt scrap include: Alloys, mixed metal residues, pure cobalt metal, metal powder or chemicals; and tungsten carbide-cobalt powders.

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