Chasm between copper, cobalt and nickel exploration success and future demand

The switch to green energy and electric vehicles will see demand for battery metals and copper boom over the coming decades.

But at the moment, the pipeline of projects to meet that demand appears wholly inadequate.

MINING.COM’s sister company MiningIntelligence studied the 65 global properties with exposure to copper, cobalt and nickel globally that had feasibility studies completed in the last five years.

In aggregate, the proven and probable reserves of copper in terms of contained tonnes of metal at the 65 projects totalled 21.9 million.

That’s only equal to a single year of global production of the bellwether metal and of course not 100% of these reserves will be extracted.

In terms of cobalt, reserves total 224.7 kilotonnes of contained cobalt at these projects, which is more than the estimated current annual production of around 130 kilotonnes.

However, projections are for annual demand for cobalt growing to more than 200 kilotonnes per year as soon as 2025 as the portable electronics and electric vehicle markets expand rapidly.

The move to nickel rich chemistries for electric vehicle batteries and a robust stainless steel industry – nickel’s number one source of demand – gives the metal a similar demand curve to cobalt.

With a modest 2.65 million tonnes of nickel outlined in the 65 feasibility studies analyzed by MiningIntelligence, exploration for nickel – and copper and cobalt – would have to step up a gear.


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