What we do
We are a consultancy business, specialising in engineering sectors such as mining, oil-and-gas and infrastructure.
Our work for clients ranges from
providing strategic advice on particular markets, to analysing market trends
and assisting clients in pursuing market opportunities.
In Australia, we follow projects and have detailed information available on operating mines and oil-and-gas sites.
We also work from time-to-time on developments in Asia.
For further information on our services, please contact us at 0411 478307 or email@example.com.
Source: Stephen Codrington
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MOUNT THIRSTY: AMONG A NEW WAVE OF COBALT
20 September 2018
Cobalt is a key component of most lithium-ion batteries, which are used in
electric vehicles, mobile phones and other portable devices.
Cobalt, Congo and China
The Congo (Democratic Republic) in central Africa produces 60% of the world’s
cobalt. Two companies dominate production there: Glencore (a major player in
several mining sectors in Australia) and Chinese company CMOC (which owns the
Northparkes copper mine in New South Wales).
But a proportion comes from other sources (including small-scale informal
mines) that are riddled with human-rights abuses, including child labour (see image, source: humanium.org). These
abuses are becoming increasingly unacceptable in developed countries.
Furthermore, in the view of Glencore’s chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg,
Western car makers are “waking up too late” to what he sees as increasing
Chinese control of global supplies. “If cobalt falls into the hands of the
Chinese, you won’t see electric vehicles being produced in Europe”, he told a
conference in Switzerland in March this year.
Analysts estimate that China controls over 80% of the global supply chain for
Given these concerns, developed-country investors are increasingly looking at
other sources of cobalt, with Australia and Canada particularly in the
One such potential source is the Mount Thirsty cobalt-nickel project, near
Norseman in Western Australia.
The project is unusual in that cobalt is the primary product – in over 95% of
cases in the world, cobalt is a by-product of copper or nickel, not the primary
A pre-feasibility study of Mount Thirsty is underway and will be followed by a
feasibility study in 2019. All going well, construction will commence in
Mining companies, Barra Resources and Conico, have equal ownership of the
project, with Barra Resources driving the pre-feasibility study. The key
consultant for the study is Wood (formerly Wood Group before acquiring AMEC
Foster Wheeler in 2017).
Mount Thirsty is one of at least half-a-dozen significant cobalt projects in
Australia, not only in Western Australia, but also in Queensland and New South
They all have good individual prospects. But how much difference will they make
The United States Geological Service estimates that world cobalt production in
2017 was 110,000 tonnes, of which the Congo produced 64,000 tonnes, followed a
long way back by Russia (5,600 tonnes), Australia (5,000 tonnes) and Canada
In the face of static production in the past five years and soaring demand,
prices have soared, from around US$25,000 per tonne in mid-2016 to over
US$90,000 per tonne in March this year. They have since slipped to around
Unfortunately for the sake of a more competitive market, the God of Geology
appears to have dictated that the Congo’s dominance is likely to
Australia, Canada and others may make a difference, but without cutting
significantly into the Congo’s production dominance. Or China’s market
All this is likely to lead to lower use of cobalt in lithium-ion batteries,
with other materials (manganese) substituting for it, in whole or part.
Barra Resources (of Mount Thirsty) remains confident that, in absolute terms,
cobalt demand will continue to grow strongly. However, it sees the average
cobalt content of electric vehicles falling by half over the next seven years
(from around 10 to 5 kilograms).
The Congo could counter this by reforming its mining sector and stepping up
production. But serious signs of this are yet to appear. Or of Chinese
assistance in this process.