Cobalt prices surge on electronics boom, tight supply

Oh zoom, you chased the day away. Stock image.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reports cobalt hydroxide prices surged by more than 22% to more than $26,000 per tonne in August from July, while cobalt sulphate prices jumped 18.5% to average over $8,000 a tonne on the back of supply disruption and strong demand from the consumer electronics sector.

The London-based battery supply chain and price discovery agency reports the price rally came despite lacklustre demand from the electric vehicle throughout the month.

Benchmark says the soft downstream environment was most notable in top Chinese cobalt refiner GEM’s announcement that its NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) battery precursor shipments fell by more than 50% during the first half of the year:

GEM has adjusted its output increasingly towards consumer electronics, the main consuming market in the first half of the year. 

The uptick in cobalt demand from the consumer electronics industry this year has been driven by increased laptop and tablet sales, linked to the rise of remote working, and rising penetration rates for 5G enabled smart phones, which require larger batteries typically, so contain greater volumes of cobalt on a per unit basis.

While mine output has been largely undisturbed in Congo – responsible for two-thirds of global cobalt production – during covid-19, most of the material is shipped through the South African port of Durban, which had been in lockdown for extended periods earlier this year.