Pubblicato in: Cina, Economia e Produzione Industriale, Geopolitica Africa

Cobalto. Il Congo triplica le tasse e ci guadagna la Cina.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2018-01-16.

2018-01-11__Congo__

«Il cobalto è l’elemento chimico di numero atomico 27. Il suo simbolo è Co.

Il nome deriva probabilmente dal greco kobalos, traducibile con folletto (ma vedi anche coboldo), “kobolt” in tedesco, probabilmente dato ai minatori tedeschi che incolpavano i folletti di fargli trovare un metallo inutile anziché il desiderato oro. ….

Il cobalto non si trova allo stato puro metallico, ma solo come minerale, e non viene estratto da solo ma come sottoprodotto della estrazione di rame o nichel. I più importanti minerali di cobalto sono la Heterogenite, la cobaltite, l’eritrite, il glaucodoto e la skutterudite. I maggiori produttori al mondo di cobalto sono la Repubblica Democratica del Congo, la Cina, lo Zambia, la Russia e l’Australia.» [Fonte]

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«The main ores of cobalt are cobaltite, erythrite, glaucodot and skutterudite (see above), but most cobalt is obtained by reducing the cobalt by-products of nickel and copper mining and smelting.

In 2005, the top producer of cobalt were the copper deposits in the Katanga Province (former Shaba province) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with almost 40% world share, reports the British Geological Survey. By 2015, DRC supplied 60% of the world production of 32,000 tons at prices of $20,000 to $26,000 per ton, including artisanal mining which supplied 10% to 25%. The political situation in Congo influences the price of cobalt significantly.

The Mukondo Mountain project, operated by the Central African Mining and Exploration Company (CAMEC) in Katanga, may be the richest cobalt reserve in the world. It was estimated to be producing one third of total global production of cobalt in 2008. In July 2009, CAMEC announced a long-term agreement to deliver its entire annual production of cobalt concentrate from Mukondo Mountain to Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Materials of China.» [Fonte]

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Questo è il profilo che Bloomberg fornisce per la Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Materials.

«Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Material Co.,Ltd. is engaged in the research and manufacture of cobalt, nickel, and copper compounds for customers in China and internationally. It offers cobalt chloride, cobalt oxalate, cobalt sulfate, copper sulfate, cobalt hydroxide, cobalt tetroxide, cobalt oxide, cobalt carbonate, copper cathode, cobalt caprate, cobalt boroacylate, cobalt powder, nickel oxide, nickel sulfate, copper sulfate, and copper electrode; and their extended products. Its products are mainly used in battery material, hard alloy, electric plating, ceramic glaze, industrial catalyst, and powder metallurgy. It also provides technical support services. The company was founded in 2004 and is based in Shangyu, China. As of February 28, 2007, Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Material Co.,Ltd. operates as a subsidiary of ENRC Africa Holdings Limited. As of December 19, 2016, Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Material Co.,Ltd operates as a subsidiary of China Greatpower Jinchuan.»

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«Founded in December 2016, China Greatpower Jinchuan is a joint venture between Shanghai Greatpower, Jinchuan Group and an undisclosed new energy industry fund, with Shanghai Greatpower as the majority stakeholder. The Shanghai-headquartered joint venture purchased assets belonging to former Chinese cobalt salt producer Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Material at a public auction in December 2016 and plans to invest $150 million into the idled operations. Before halting production, the former Galico plant had an annual capacity of 4,500 tonnes of cobalt contained in cobalt salts and 2,000 tonnes of nickel contained in nickel salts, with products ranging from cobalt sulfate, cobalt chloride and nickel sulfate. The company expects to reach full production capacity for cobalt salts in August and will begin producing nickel sulfate» [Metal Bulletin]

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«Founded in 2016, China Greatpower Jinchuan Advanced Battery Materials Corp.(GPJC)is a leading producer of core materials for global lithium battery industry. Located in National Economic and Technological Development Zone near Hangzhou Bay in Shaoxing City of Zhejiang Province,the company covers 120000㎡of land area and 70000㎡of building area including a large-scale production site.

 GPJC is a joint venture between Shanghai Greatpower, Jinchuan Group and an undisclosed new energy industry fund, with Shanghai Greatpower holding the majority stake, successfully purchasing assets belonging to former Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Material Co.,Ltd in December 2016. GPJC aims to be the key supplier of core materials across the whole supply chain for global lithium battery material. For the commissioning of first-stage production, GPJC has invested over 200 million RMB to produce battery materials including cobalt, nickel and lithium with a new capacity of 30,000 mtpa on board by 2017. GPJC has both the expertise in sourcing and marketing battery materials with long-term strategic partnerships in the upstream sector and also the cutting-edge technology of producing and processing battery materials in the downstream sector, the combination of which will maximise its competitive advantage and show its uniqueness under ever-changing market conditions.

With Shanghai Greatpower holding the majority stake, GPJC is a national high-tech enterprise specialized in developing, manufacturing and selling high performance power battery material(lithium-ion battery and energy storage battery), which is jointly invested by Jinchuan Group and Beijing Daseng International Investment. GPJC aims to be the core supplier in key material of the power battery industry chain in Chinese and even global market.

In order to set up the double advantage of resource control and material technology, our company have arranged effective layout on the upstream resources of lithium battery materials and established the supply chain of lithium and cobalt resources all over the world in a simultaneous way, thus completely possessing the service ability for new energy industry.» [Greatpower J]

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Cerchiamo di sintetizzare, al costo di essere anche molto riduttivi.

– Larga parte del cobalto è estratto nella Provincia del Katanga (ex Shaba) della Repubblica Democratica del Congo, che fornisce il 50% di tutta la produzione mondiale.

– L’estratto minerario è inidoneo all’impiego industriale diretto, e deve essere trattato, almeno a solfato di cobalto.

– L’aumento delle tasse di estrazione resterà trasparente alla Cina, che lo scaricherà sugli acquirenti, mentre gioverà al Congo, che ha un disperato bisogno di infrastrutture.

– A partire dal 2009 l’intera produzione estrattiva della Mukondo Mountain è esportata in toto in Cina, alla  Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Materials, di proprietà Shanghai Greatpower, che la manipola ottenendo la quasi totalità del solfato di cobalto disponibile sui mercati.

– I mercati mondiali dipendono anche in questo settore dal virtuale monopolio cinese, che lo coordina tramite la Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Materials con la produzione di altre molecole indispensabili per l’industria globale.

– In ultima analisi, il governo cinese modula tutto il mercato del solfato di cobalto e, di conseguenza, quello delle batterie e di molti componenti elettronici e metallurgici.

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Si voglia o meno, piaccia o meno, la Cina ha un governo di persone capaci, ben selezionate e che governano e sanno governare.

La sua organizzazione politica è in grado di tessere piani strategici di lungo termine, e lo fa con accortezza.

L’Occidente avrebbe molte cose da imparare.


Metalli Rari. 2017-12-12. Il cobalto andrà forte anche nel 2018?

«Le aspettative per il cobalto, durante l’anno che sta per finire, sono sempre state brillanti.

Il metallo chiave per la produzione delle batterie al litio, utilizzate anche per alimentare i veicoli elettrici (EV), è stato uno dei protagonisti del 2017. I prezzi al London Metal Exchange (LME) sono cresciuti di oltre il 120% da inizio anno e i titoli azionari delle società del settore hanno registrato guadagni del 100%.

Il trend al rialzo dei prezzi dura ormai da inizio anno, grazie alle prospettive di una forte domanda proveniente dal settore EV e alle preoccupazioni che non ci sia abbastanza cobalto. Nei primi giorni del 2017 i prezzi erano di 32.500 dollari, mentre a inizio dicembre hanno raggiunto i 75.000 dollari a tonnellata, il punto più alto dell’anno.

Probabilmente, a spingere i prezzi così in alto non è stata soltanto la domanda, ma anche la speculazione. Agli investitori è sempre più chiaro che la scommessa a lungo termine sullo sviluppo del mercato della mobilità elettrica è vincente.

Molti fondi istituzionali hanno studiato a lungo la catena delle forniture del cobalto, per coglierne tutte le opportunità. Si sono resi conto che le batterie al litio non contengono il metallo quotato al LME, quanto piuttosto solfato di cobalto. Tuttavia, il fatto che il cobalto sotto forma metallica sia quotato in un mercato regolamentato come l’LME, aggiunge una maggiore trasparenza sull’andamento dei prezzi dal momento che le diverse forme di cobalto sono intrinsecamente legate (ma il solfato di cobalto costa molto di più).

Per chi non lo sapesse, l’80% della produzione mondiale di prodotti chimici a base di cobalto, come il solfato, vengono prodotti dalla Cina, che importa la materia prima necessaria dalla Repubblica Democratica del Congo (RDC), un paese ad altissima instabilità politica.

Ma cosa succederà nel 2018?

Innanzitutto, l’aumento della domanda è destinato a continuare. Domanda crescente e scarsità di offerta porteranno ancora ad una crescita dei prezzi, spinti soprattutto dal settore EV. In questo contesto, giocherà un ruolo sempre più importante la Repubblica Democratica del Congo che, attualmente, fornisce il 50% di tutta la produzione mondiale. Di conseguenza, i grossi problemi di questo paese, instabilità politica ed estrazione del minerale ottenuta sfruttando il lavoro minorile, si ripercuoteranno sui prezzi del cobalto.»


Bloomberg. 2018-01-10. Congo May More Than Double Tax on Critical Global Cobalt Supply

– Mining code to increase royalty taxes on ‘strategic’ materials

– Legislation awaiting Senate approval to be signed into law

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The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing to more than double a tax on two-thirds of global cobalt supply, potentially increasing the cost of the critical battery metal just as the world begins to embrace electric vehicles.

Congo, the world’s biggest cobalt producer, will increase the royalty miners pay on exports of the metal to 5 percent from 2 percent if it opts to categorize cobalt as a “strategic substance,” Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told the country’s Senate last week.

The new classification is part of an overhaul of mining legislation that is fiercely opposed by the industry, which says the law may deter future investment. Under the revised code, backed by the government and being scrutinized by parliament, the tax on base metals including copper and cobalt will increase to 3.5 percent from 2 percent. If approved by the Senate, the law will also allow the state to select “strategic” metals, likely to include cobalt, and tax them at a higher rate of 5 percent, Kabwelulu said.

A byproduct of copper and nickel mining used to harden steel, cobalt stepped into the global spotlight last year as prices surged. The metal’s efficiency in conducting electricity has made it essential for rechargeable batteries used in electric cars produced by companies including Tesla Inc. and Volkswagen AG.

Prices Triple

Plans to dramatically increase the production of electric vehicles resulted in the price of the metal more than tripling in the past two years as miners and automakers scrambled to secure supply. The boom hasn’t gone unnoticed in Congo, whose mines supply about two-thirds of global output.

The new legislation will guarantee Congo “the flexibility to face unforeseen developments in the international market if the international economic situation demands it” by permitting the government to declare certain minerals “strategic substances,” Kabwelulu told senators Jan. 5, according to a transcript of his remarks.

The minister singled out cobalt’s “not only strategic but also critical character” on the world market. Tantalum, a scarce mineral extracted from so-called coltan ore and used in smartphones, could also be taxed at the higher rate, Kabwelulu said.

The current mining law, which was promoted by the World Bank and adopted in 2002, attracted billions of dollars of investment from mining companies including Glencore Plc and Randgold Resources Ltd. While the economy has grown, the government says the mining industry hasn’t generated sufficient revenue for the state.

Windfall Tax

“If cobalt is declared strategic one day, naturally the royalty will climb to 5 percent,” Kabwelulu’s chief of staff, Valery Mukasa, said by phone Tuesday. “We haven’t said cobalt will be a strategic substance. We said cobalt can be,” he said, adding there are “considerations that need to be assessed from a technical point of view and in terms of the international market.”

In addition to the new royalty tax on strategic minerals, the draft law also:

– Increases royalties on gold from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent;

– Introduces a profit-windfall tax;

– Doubles the state’s free share to 10 percent; and,

– Reduces the period during which contract stability is guaranteed to five years from 10 years.

Stability Clauses

While existing stability clauses mean companies with valid mining contracts, like Glencore and Randgold, won’t have to comply with most reforms for 10 years, the increased royalty rates will be applied to all projects immediately, Kabwelulu told senators on Jan. 2.

The royalty hike may have the biggest impact on Glencore, the country’s largest producer of both copper and cobalt. The company shipped about 213,000 metric tons of copper and 24,500 tons of cobalt from its Mutanda mine last year. That could rise to more than 500,000 tons of copper and more than 65,000 tons of cobalt by 2019 once production at its suspended Katanga Mining operation reaches full capacity.

The draft law was adopted by the National Assembly on Dec. 8 and is being examined by the Senate in an extraordinary session that started Jan. 2. If approved by the Upper House, it will be sent to President Joseph Kabila to sign into law.