Cobalt prices surge on electronics boom, tight supply

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.

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