A Short Analysis of Cobalt Resources in China


Cobalt is not rare in terms of reserves. The world’s reserves declared in 1998 were 4.3 million tons, with the major concentration in Congo (Kinshasa), Cuba, Zambia, Australia, New Caledonia, and Russia. As it can be seen from the sequence, cobalt reserves in China are indeed so little, while Congo (Kinshasa) has half of the world’s reserves. Suppose that there are 4.3 million tons in the world, they own 2 million tons, followed by the countries like Cuba and Zambia. According to the statistics reported by The Ministry of Land and Resources of PRC in 1999, China has only about 40000 tons of cobalt reserves, with only 60000 tons of basic reserves and 0.47 million tons of resources quantity. China is said to contain 0.475 million tons of cobalt, but only 39000 tons are exploitable, which takes up only 8.34% of the resource reserves; the basic reserve is merely 59800 tons, 12.59% of the resource reserves. Hence China is a country severely short of cobalt resources.

Cobalt ore is an associated mineral. Usually, it seldom exists in the form of independent deposit, but in the form of associated element accompanying with other elements most of the time. a. Copper-cobalt ore deposits are primarily distributed in Africa, south of the Congo, and north of Zambia, accounting for almost half of the world’s cobalt. There are rich abundances of cobalt, which is also the major cobalt source in the world currently; b. Cobalt-containing copper nickel sulfide deposits are mainly distributed in Canada, Russia, and Australia. These are also the chief sources of cobalt, with most of them concentrated in pentlandite; c. Cobalt nickel laterite. Plenty of nickel resources are from laterite. The beneficiation and processing of laterite are difficult, direct metallurgy is required and of low mining grade. This is also a source of cobalt, but copper-cobalt deposits are still dominated; d. There are still some cobalt-containing poly-metallic deposits in Morocco and Canada; e. Cobalt-containing pyrite. China used to principally deal with this kind of minerals by separating some cobalt-containing pyrites from iron ore, and then conduct metallurgical treatment. Cobalt is used by many high alloys because it is a very special metal with high melting point, and good stability. It also contributes to the formation of many compounds that are of various special uses. Therefore, its application prospects are very broad and many of its characteristics are irreplaceable by other metals.

In the aspect of catalyst, the use level of cobalt will increase. It is internationally acknowledged that there are mainly two aspects. The first one is battery, and the second one is catalyst. Cobalt’s use level will increase especially in the leading and cracking of petroleum. The catalyst of cobalt combines both cobalt and molybdenum, which is also irreplaceable by others. As a result, cobalt industry is regarded by the world as an environmentally-friendly industry which plays a positive role in environment. Of course, cobalt smelting also causes environmental pollution, which should be carefully handled and protected. However, cobalt is of wide uses, for example, it is used in the desulfuration of petroleum industry. This is an environmentally-friendly metal, and it has many kinds of compounds itself with wide range of uses.

Cobalt is a kind of metal with very unique properties and beneficial for the environment. China is a country badly in need of cobalt, but cobalt’s output and consumption are significant in the world. The production of cobalt has different manufacturing process according to its raw material properties. Metal recovery rate should be emphasized in production because it is expensive and of low mining grade. Recovery rate has always been the major consideration by researcher in production. Comprehensive utilization of resources should be also considered, as it is a semi-finished metal. Besides, environmental pollution is another aspect that should be put into consideration. The recycling of cobalt is an inevitable trend in the sustainable development of China’s cobalt industry. Import in large quantities is not a sustainable solution. In addition, it is a typical recycling of nonferrous metal resources because it is small, more likely to be independent in the enterprise, and of high value. The application of cobalt powder is of very wide range. In recent years, its level of use increased rapidly in chemistry, and its compounds are still of very broad application prospects.