Cobalt—you may have heard of this important metal that goes into lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, phones, and more. But where does all this cobalt come from? In this guide, we‘ll look at the top 10 largest cobalt mining companies that dig up and supply this critical mineral.
You‘ll learn about each company‘s history, their mines, production stats, and more. We‘ll also discuss some key trends shaping the cobalt mining industry today. Sound interesting? Let‘s dive in!
A Quick Intro to Cobalt
First, a quick primer. Cobalt is a hard, silver-gray metal found naturally combined with other elements like copper and nickel. Thanks to its heat-resistant properties, cobalt has become an essential ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for EVs, phones, laptops and other devices.
As electric vehicles go mainstream, demand for cobalt has skyrocketed. In 2021 alone, the cobalt market was worth $4.26 billion and is projected to reach $9.58 billion by 2027, growing at 13.04% CAGR .
Meeting this demand takes massive mines and refining capacity worldwide. So which companies currently dominate cobalt mining? Let‘s find out…
#10: Panoramic Resources
Our first company is Australian miner Panoramic Resources, headquartered in Perth. Founded in 2001, Panoramic focuses on producing nickel, copper and cobalt.
Its main asset is the Savannah nickel-copper-cobalt mine in Western Australia. After being on care and maintenance since 2016, the mine finally resumed operations in October 2021 .
In its mid-year report, Panoramic stated it produced 200 tons of cobalt from Savannah so far, with output expected to increase in late 2022 and into 2023 . With cobalt prices surging, Panoramic looks well-positioned to benefit at Savannah.
- 2021 revenue: $90.39 million
- Cobalt production: 200 tons (2022)
- Mines: Savannah (Australia)
#9: Sherritt International
Next on our list is Toronto-based Sherritt International. Operating since 1927, this Canadian mining and refining company has operations in Canada, Cuba and Madagascar.
Sherritt focuses on mining nickel and cobalt, along with generating power. It‘s a significant global producer of refined cobalt, at a purity of 99.9% .
Where does Sherritt‘s cobalt come from? Mainly Cuba, through its 50/50 Moa Joint Venture with General Nickel Company. This vertically integrated operation mines ore, processes it on-site and refines cobalt and nickel, which gets exported worldwide.
In 2021, Sherritt‘s share of production at Moa was 3,526 tons of cobalt, contributing to its total revenue of $110 million .
- 2021 revenue: $110 million
- Cobalt production: 3,526 tons
- Mines: Moa, Cuba (50% share)
#8: Jervois Global
Moving up the ranks, we have Jervois Global. Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, Jervois has mining and refining operations across multiple countries.
Formed in 1962, Jervois has steadily grown with the goal of becoming the largest nickel and cobalt producer globally. Its business units mine and refine nickel and cobalt for uses like chemicals, powder metallurgy, pigments and battery materials .
Jervois‘s assets include its Sao Miguel Paulista (SMP) refinery in Brazil and the Idaho Cobalt Operations (ICO) in the United States. SMP refined around 2,000 tons of cobalt in 2021, helping Jervois generate $162 million in total revenue for the year .
- 2021 revenue: $162 million
- Cobalt production: ~2,000 tons
- Mines: SMP (Brazil), ICO (U.S.)
Belgium-based Umicore has been around for centuries—its origins trace back to 1805! Today, Umicore is a global leader in cobalt refining and recycling.
After getting its start smelting zinc in Belgium, the company now focuses on specialty metals and materials. Umicore runs large-scale cobalt refining at its plants in China, Finland and Belgium.
A standout fact about Umicore: it is the world‘s biggest producer of sustainably-sourced cobalt. The company stopped buying cobalt from small-scale Congolese mines years ago. Instead, Umicore gets most of its cobalt from recycling used batteries and industrial waste .
In 2021, Umicore‘s strong performance in cathode materials helped drive revenues up 22% to $4 billion .
- 2021 revenue: $4 billion
- Cobalt production: unspecified
- Recycling plants: China, Finland, Belgium
#6: Huayou Cobalt
The first Chinese company on our list is Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, headquartered in Tongxiang, China. Founded in 2002, Huayou has quickly become a major cobalt producer.
Huayou Cobalt gets most of its cobalt from its majority-owned mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company extracted around 5,400 tons of cobalt from Congo in 2021 .
However, Huayou has faced criticism over child labor in its DRC supply chain. After multiple investigations found artisanal mines Huayou bought from used child workers, the company vowed to improve its responsible sourcing practices .
Huayou also has an array of battery material joint ventures with automakers and tech companies. These partnerships bolstered Huayou‘s revenues to $4.8 billion in 2021.
- 2021 revenue: $4.8 billion
- Cobalt production: 5,400 tons (estimated)
- Mines: DRC (majority owned)
#5: China Molybdenum
As the name suggests, China Molybdenum (CMOC) is a Chinese mineral company focused on molybdenum. But it‘s also the world‘s 2nd largest cobalt miner!
State-owned CMOC has invested heavily in the DRC, operating major copper-cobalt mines like Tenke Fungurume. CMOC bought Tenke from Freeport-McMoRan in 2016 for $2.65 billion—one of China‘s largest mining deals in Africa ever .
In total, CMOC produced around 17,100 tons of cobalt from its DRC mines in 2021 . However, it‘s now in a dispute with DRC‘s state miner Gécamines over royalties at Tenke Fungurume, with billions at stake.
- 2021 revenue: $24.1 billion
- Cobalt production: 17,100 tons (estimated)
- Mines: Tenke Fungurume, DRC (80% share)
#4: Eurasian Resources Group
Next is Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), one of the world‘s largest diversified mining groups. ERG has assets across Africa, South America and Kazakhstan producing various minerals.
Registered in Luxembourg, ERG was formed in 2013 after merging Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and ENRC‘s private owners.
For cobalt, ERG relies on the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has a controlling stake in Metalkol RTR. This project recycles old tailings from mines to recover cobalt and copper. From Metalkol, ERG produced around 20,700 tons of cobalt in 2021 .
- 2021 revenue: $33 billion
- Cobalt production: 20,700 tons
- Mines: Metalkol RTR, DRC (majority shareholder)
Our #3 cobalt mining company is also based in the DRC. Gécamines is the largest mining firm in the DRC and one of the biggest in Africa.
Gécamines started operations in 1906 under Belgian colonial rule. After the DRC‘s independence in 1960, it became a state-owned company and DRC‘s leading cobalt-copper producer .
Today, Gécamines holds minority stakes in several joint ventures with international miners like Glencore and CMOC. From its share of production at these mines, Gécamines extracted around 13,860 tons of cobalt in 2021 .
Gécamines made headlines in mid-2022 for its record revenue of $33.7 billion in the previous fiscal year, buoyed by surging commodity prices .
- 2021/2022 revenue: $33.7 billion
- Cobalt production: 13,860 tons
- Mines: Various JVs in DRC
Brazilian mining giant Vale comes in at #2 on our list. Well known as the world‘s largest iron ore producer, Vale also has significant nickel and cobalt operations.
Founded in 1942, Vale has grown into one of Latin America‘s largest companies, with a market cap over $60 billion . Although cobalt makes up a small percentage of its revenues, Vale is still a cobalt mining leader.
In Canada, Vale produces cobalt as a byproduct from its nickel mines like Voisey‘s Bay and Long Harbour. For 2021, Vale reported total revenues of $54.5 billion.
- 2021 revenue: $54.5 billion
- Cobalt production: unspecified
- Mines: Voisey‘s Bay, Canada
And taking the top spot is Glencore, the world‘s number one cobalt miner with around 28% market share . Headquartered in Switzerland, this diversified commodity trading and mining giant operates in over 35 countries.
In the DRC, Glencore owns two major copper-cobalt mines: Katanga and Mutanda. By ramping up production at Katanga, Glencore produced around 31,300 tons of cobalt in 2021 – far more than any other company .
Glencore‘s dominance in DRC cobalt production helped drive its 2021 revenues to $203 billion. As EV demand takes off, Glencore looks well-positioned to capitalize through its cobalt operations.
- 2021 revenue: $203.8 billion
- Cobalt production: 31,300 tons
- Mines: Katanga, Mutanda (DRC)
We‘ve covered a lot of ground on the world‘s top cobalt miners! Here‘s a quick recap:
Largest Cobalt Mining Companies
|4||Eurasian Resources Group||Luxembourg||$33 billion|
|5||China Molybdenum||China||$24.1 billion|
|6||Huayou Cobalt||China||$4.8 billion|
|8||Jervois Global||Australia||$162 million|
|9||Sherritt International||Canada||$110 million|
|10||Panoramic Resources||Australia||$90.39 million|
Cobalt is increasingly in demand for electric vehicle batteries and consumer electronics. As the world moves toward renewable energy, companies producing cobalt – especially ethically-sourced cobalt – will play a critical role.
Hope you found this guide helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions.