Dozens of ASX cobalt stocks stand to benefit from harsher rules on child slave labour — including Namibia-focused Celsius and Cazaly, writes Barry FitzGerald in his legendary Garimpeiro column

The venerable London Metal Exchange has taken longer than it should have to get tough on metal supplies produced by child slave labour.

But it’s almost there, promising this week to outline soon the requirement for only ethically-sourced metal to make its way into its warehouses and trading platforms.

Metal producers will have to meet OECD guidelines on the issue which, in essence, say child slave labour it is to be avoided in metals production for the rotten thing it is.

The backdrop to the LME’s move was the controversy which surfaced last year over suspicions that a Chinese metals group was sending it cobalt produced by child slaves at artisanal cobalt operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Followers of the boom price for cobalt — it is a key metal in the dominant lithium-ion battery chemistries and is in supply deficit — know well that the DRC accounts for as much as 65 per cent of global supplies of the metal and that a good portion of that comes from less-than-ethical supply sources, including child slave labour.

Consumer-facing end-users of lithium-ion batteries face increasing pressure to ensure that their supplies of materials have been sourced in a sustainable and ethical manner.

Add in nervousness that cobalt supplies are concentrated in a country not known for its political stability, and they are crying out for non-DRC sourced material.

For dozens of ASX juniors that have cobalt as their focus in response to the price increasing four-fold in the last two years to $US91,000 a tonne, that represents a real opportunity.

Today’s interest is in two juniors that have settled on lightly populated and mining friendly Namibia as their cobalt destination – Celsius Resources (ASX:CLA) and the more recently arrived Cazaly Resources (ASX:CAZ).

Celsius is one of the best performed cobalt stocks of late in response to its trail-blazing work in confirming the cobalt (and copper) potential of the Kaoko Belt in north-west Namibia.

The belt is considered by some to be an extension of the Central African copper (and cobalt) belt which runs through the DRC and Zambia.

Celsius has just delivered an impressive maiden resource estimate for its 95 per cent owned Opuwo project of 112mt grading 0.11% cobalt, 0.41% copper and 0.43% zinc for 126,000t of contained cobalt, 464,00t of contained copper and 480,000 tonnes of contained zinc.

The resource estimate has carried Celsius from 12c a share a month ago to 21.5c for a $128 million market value.

Hartleys has a 12-month price target on the stock of 26c, saying further resource growth is anticipated as the deposits remains open along strike and at depth.

Celsius Resources shares (ASX:CLA) over the past year.
Celsius Resources shares (ASX:CLA) over the past year.

Meanwhile, Cazaly — which is trading at 5.7c for a market cap of $11 million — has moved in next door.

Drawing on the in-country experience with uranium of some of its directors, Cazaly has picked up the right to earn a 95 per cent interest in what it is calling the Kaoko Kobalt project.

The project area is to the north of and abuts Celsius’s Opuwo project.

While it is early days at Kaoko, Cazaly has assessed that its project area covers 27km of the “postulated continuation’’ of the cobalt-copper bearing dolerite ore formation (DOF) at Opuwo.

Cazaly’s joint managing director Clive Jones is on the ground in Namibia preparing for initial field-work at the project.

Jones said the region seems to be a significant emerging cobalt bearing belt having remarkable similarities with the Central African copper belt in the DRC and Zambia.

“This is an ideal time to be exploring for large resources of cobalt where we are seeing cobalt prices continuing to surge on the back of growing concern that future supplies may be unable to meet burgeoning demand,’’ Jones said.

Cazaly Resources shares (ASX:CAZ) over the past year.