The perils of cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are well reported, but is it fair to tarnish mining companies operating in developed countries with the same brush, where conditions are different?

It’s true, 8 of the world’s 10 largest cobalt mines by production volume in 2022 were based in the DRC – the likely source of cobalt cathodes in today’s electric vehicles – but this current supply chain has proven unsustainable.

Western consumers want to know where their cobalt comes from, and they want to know the conditions under which it was extracted or processed.


On the right path

The emergence of the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) has prompted change in strategic investment patterns among global EV and battery makers by introducing strict requirements over geographic sourcing of raw materials.

Under the IRA, the US government is focused on Allied Nations that include EU, UK, Japan, South Korea, and Australia whose mining and refining industries will be incentivised to respond.

According to Cobalt Blue (ASX:COB) CEO Joe Kaderavek, these changes will lead to a global race for IRA-compliant supply and in the next two to three years, things will look very different.

“The industry is now pivoting away from entities of concern and what we’re seeing today is pricing for IRA and EU compliance delivery of cobalt getting premiums on a shipment-by-shipment basis,” he tells Stockhead.

“In the next two to three years we will start to see two cobalt markets.

“One will be the base metal market or if you like, the China price, where the origin of the metal doesn’t matter and the other market will be the Western world price, with all ESG and CO2 certificates associated with that.

“In other words, metal that is currently mined in Africa and put through Chinese production is not fungible into Western markets – it may as well be a different metal.”


Cobalt Blue: full steam ahead

Today, Allied Nations currently produce ~30,000tpa of cobalt metal but this amount needs to increase significantly to 140,000tpa by 2030 to meet its own demand, Kaderavek says.

From his point of view, this shortfall can only be overcome by creating new supply chains that include new mines and refineries.

COB is doing just that at its 81,000tpa Broken Hill cobalt project in New South Wales – one of the only large scale, non-African, greenfield primary cobalt projects in the world – which it plans to bring into production by 2026.

As part of its Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) work, the company also wants to build a $70m, 3,000tpa standalone refinery in the battery hub of Kwinana near Perth, WA to turn the BHCP’s 12,000tpa of mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) into higher value cobalt sulphate.

“Cobalt sulphate is not a great material to be making in the Australian outback in low 40-degree heat – it absorbs moisture – and Kwinana gives us access to lower cost, higher grade chemicals which are more akin to a laboratory environment,” Kaderavek says.

“We plan to get into construction next year.”


Other ASX players working to create new sustainable supply chains

Other ASX players, like Kuniko (ASX:KNI) are making their mark in Europe, where lithium-ion batteries will bear a carbon intensity performance class label from 1 January 2026.

As part of these same regulations, batteries must also comply with maximum carbon footprint thresholds from 1 July 2027, or risk being banned.

For KNI, whose Skuterud nickel-cobalt project is based in Norway, the focus is on keeping track of emissions during the exploration phase.

“We’re getting those independently verified once a year by a third party and then purchasing accredited offsets to reduce the impact,” KNI managing director Antony Beckmand tells Stockhead.

“We’ve set up a centralised workshop in between our main projects to handle drill cores to reduce the distance for transportation but for future production, we’ll need to look into electrified mining fleets.

“Many leading companies in that space are based in Scandinavia such as Sandvik, who’s already got underground electrified mining equipment on market, but what we’ve worked out is the infrastructure is just too immature at this point,” he explains.

In further harmony with EU regulations and ethical sources of critical battery metals, Kuniko signed an offtake and equity investment agreement with automaker Stellantis earlier this month to support the development of its Norweigan battery metals projects.

Under the agreement, KNI will supply 35% of future nickel and cobalt sulphate production from Skuterud to Stellantis for a €5,000,000 investment, which according to Beckmand, represents a major milestone for the company.

“Stellantis are the first brave mover to turn as far upstream as cobalt exploration to take some risk and secure their future,” Beckmand adds.

“Here in Norway – where 80% of the population drives an electric vehicle – is the perfect place to put the question of ethical sourcing and supply to the people by saying ‘here in your backyard, you have a choice…do you want to produce in Europe, in your backyard for Europe or do you accept child labour out of the DRC so you can drive your Tesla?”


Can we do without cobalt?

Despite all the many positive advancements by individual mining companies to change the status quo, some still argue against the use of cobalt as a key component for EV batteries altogether.

Their argument is that lithium-ion chemistries can do without cobalt, examples being lithium ferrous (iron) phosphate and lithium titanate chemistries.

Major car makers such as Tesla, Ford and German giant Volkswagen have already announced their adoption of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) chemistry batteries within their fleet of EVs.

But while LFPS are cheaper than NCA (nickel cobalt aluminium) or NCM (nickel cobalt manganese) cells – mainly because they don’t require scarce and price-volatile metals such as nickel or cobalt – Kaderavek says the idea that LFPs will somehow cause cobalt demand to stagnate is a fallacy.

This is because batteries without cobalt, like LFP, have decreased power pack performance, charge slower, and have a poorer range.

“I haven’t met an OEM that doesn’t have a large majority of its mass passenger EVs as being cobalt dominated,” he says.

“Most are morphing to a portion of their portfolio being suburban vehicles but for the mass market passenger vehicle, where you’re starting at a 6-to-700km range minimum because that happens to be what they’re currently getting with their internal combustion engine cars, it is still centred on NCM and NCA cobalt-based cathodes.”


Which other ASX stocks have cobalt?


Ardea’s Kalgoorlie nickel project (KNP) hosts the largest nickel-cobalt resources in Australia, which is being advanced towards production by working with Commonwealth government Critical minerals agencies, stakeholders and industry leading partners in completing feasibility programs.

KNP has a resource of 854Mt at 0.71% nickel and 0.045% cobalt for 6.1Mt of contained nickel and 386,000t of contained cobalt with nickel sulphide exploration continuing across the Emu Lake target – which is an evolving contribution to Ardea’s building of a green, forward-facing integrated nickel company.

The company recently signed a non-binding agreement with a Japanese consortium – consisting of Sumitomo Metal Mining, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Mitsui & Co – to carry out a definitive feasibility assessment at the KNP.

Future work is aimed at completing the DFS, making a final investment decision (FID) and securing project development funding for the Goongarrie Hub to become a globally significant producer of nickel cobalt for the lithium-ion battery sector.



Lycaon’s Bow River prospect was discovered in the 1960s within the Halls Creek Mobile Zone in the East Kimberley region.

The Project area covers two known nickel-copper-cobalt sulphide prospects mapped as the Salt Lick Creek intrusion and the Bow River intrusion.

Both intrusives are sulphide-bearing and similar in style and setting to Panoramic Resources’ Savannah mine, located  60km further south.

Adding further interest, IGO has tenements all around Bow River and have kept up activity in the region.

Diamond drilling kicked off in late June to test a deeper portion of the Bow River intrusive.



Golden Mile recently raised $1.889m to fund accelerated drilling Quicksilver nickel-cobalt and Yuinmery Gold projects.

The company’s earlier drilling at Quicksilver, which yielded the aforementioned top nickel grades, had indicated that the high-grade zones of the orebody could be directly transported and shipped without beneficiation.

Additionally, high-grade nickel and cobalt in the oxide zone might be an indication of potential disseminated nickel mineralisation within the untested primary zone.

Extra holes have already been added to the upcoming Phase 2 – Assays Ancillary program to test for REE mineralisation alongside the potential primary disseminated nickel mineralisation as they are located within the same area.


Many Peaks Gold discovered promising cobalt mineralisation at its Yarrol gold project in late May after following up exploration work carried out by previous operator EMX who had presented 65 rock chip samples with multiple >1% cobalt results across a 41km extent.

The company focused on building out the cobalt and manganese oxide discoveries at Yarrol with assay results from the first four diamond drill holes showing significant potential.

To date, 1,673m of AC drilling has been completed targeting the cobalt mineralisation, with geochemical assays pending on the manganese replacement horizon from 30 air core holes, and mineral separation test work on the heavy mineral sands currently under review.

MPG chairman Travis Schwertfeger said initial drilling into cobalt targets at the Plateau project confirms the potential for a significant discovery of cobalt mineralisation.



Latest phase-1 drilling results continue to highlight the potential of Conico’s Mt Thirsty nickel-cobalt-manganese-scandium project near Norseman in Western Australia.

Further shallow and thick results include 48m at 0.08% cobalt, including 6m at 0.14% cobalt and 70m at 0.05% cobalt including wider 26m at 0.11% cobalt.

Most of these results were returned outside the current mineral resource estimate and present an opportunity for further resource growth as well as potential mine life extensions.

Metallurgical studies are progressing and will feed into the scoping study, currently underway, expected for completion shortly.



QPM’s TECH project near Townsville, Queensland has been recognised by the Queensland Government as a ‘prescribed project’ – meaning it is of state significance, and is economically and socially important to the region.

The company plans to process imported high-grade laterite ore from New Caledonia to produce nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate, as well as other valuable co-products.

A spate of off-take agreements have already been secured and investments partners engaged in the like of General Motors, LG Energy Solutions, and POSCO.

Key commercial discussions are also advancing in relation to material contracts for the TECH Project in the areas of equipment supply, construction and installation, stevedoring, ore warehousing and logistics.


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At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Many Peaks Gold, Lycaon Resources, and Golden Mile Resources are Stockhead clients, they did not sponsor this article.