Glencore inks 5-year cobalt supply deal with China’s GEM

Glencore shut in August its Mutanda mine in the Congo, the largest cobalt mine in the world. (Image courtesy of Glencore.)

Miner and commodities trader Glencore (LON:GLEN), the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, has committed to sell about a quarter of its annual production of the battery metal over the next five years to Chinese battery recycler GEM Co.

The Baar, Switzerland-based firm will sell at least 61,200 tonnes of cobalt hydroxide to GEM between 2020 and 2024 as Beijing moves to secure supplies of the critical metal needed for the batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs).

Deal will see the Swiss giant sending GEM 12,240 tonnes of cobalt per year or about a quarter of its expected total output, now mainly coming from the Katanga mine in the DRC.

“This agreement represents a major cornerstone in GEM’s cobalt sourcing strategy as it will support GEM’s continued contribution to the Chinese New Energy Market,” GEM’s chairman, Kaihua Xu, said in the statement.

The deal comes less than a year after the Shenzhen-listed company walked away from a similar supply agreement due to a sudden slump in cobalt prices triggered by oversupply from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the No. 1 cobalt producer.

Colin Hamilton, BMO Global Commodities Research’s analyst, said that given the size of the off-take deal is likely to trigger “some scramble” from automakers and equipment manufacturers to lock in cobalt units for NCM cathode production.

Glencore’s decision to shut its Mutanda mine, the world’s largest cobalt source, has breathed new life into the market since August. But prices have responded slowly, with the metal still trading at around $18 per pound, according to Fastmarkets, less than half the over $40 a pound it hit in early 2018.

The supply deal will see the Swiss giant sending 12,240 tonnes of cobalt per year or about a quarter of its expected total output, now mainly coming from the Katanga mine in the DRC.

Glencore, whose cobalt is mined as a by-product from its copper and nickel mines in the DRC, Canada and Australia, expects its cobalt production to hit to 65,000 tonnes this year and dip to 63,000 tonnes in 2020.

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