Is cobalt the commodity of the future?
If the vision of Elon Musk comes to fruition, cobalt will become an important commodity for the mining industry in the future.
The billionaire genius recently unveiled Powerwall, a home battery that give homeowners the ability to get off the commercial power grid entirely by storing surplus electricity generated from solar panels during the day or from the utility grid when rates are low.
Unlike Tesla's electric cars, Musk has stated Powerwall will use a more powerful battery consisting of nickel, manganese and cobalt. If the home battery takes off like many people expect it to (there are 38,000 reservations for the home battery pack so far), Tesla may require up to 10,000 tons per year of cobalt. At that rate, Tesla will account for roughly 10 percent of the current global market.
“The new currency for smart commodity investors will be cobalt, which is poised to play a growing role in everyone’s life if the vision of American billionaire Elon Musk to have a Tesla Motors battery powering homes comes to fruition,” said Andrew Critchlow, commodities writer for The Telegraph.
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Cobalt is commonly produced as a by-product from either copper or nickel. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Democratic Republic of Congo accounted for half of the global production for cobalt in 2014. Current leading producers include Freeport-McMoRan, Lundin Mining and Fortune Minerals.
In their recent market overview report for investors, commodities team at Macquarie wrote: “Many peer commodities would be more than happy with that relative growth coming from all consumer sectors combined, never mind just one alone. With a steadily improving demand profile, we do expect it to receive increased attention over the coming two years.”
Musk continues to thrust the renewable energy industry forward and the payoff could be in the hands of the mining industry.
As the demand for electric cars continues to grow -- 740,000 units sold last year -- and new incentives to consumers to shift away from fossil fuels for transport and electrification are on the horizon, more mining companies are preparing for a climate change in business.
Cobalt is the one commodity that should be on everyone’s radar.
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”