As the race for the metals and minerals driving the electric vehicle revolution heats up, and China continues to jockey for pole position, Sweden is tossing its hat into the ring. According to recent media reports, the Swedish government has earmarked 10 million kronor ( roughly one million Euros) to explore the option of digging for Cobalt and Lithium on its own territory by the first half of 2020. Writes Nora Manthey for Electrive.com:
“A new report published by the Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU) finds that “there is great potential for prospecting for many innovation critical resources in Sweden, including graphite, lithium, Rare Earth Metals (REE), volfram etc”. Now the Swedish government has jumped on those findings and funds further research with 10 million kronor, reasoning that the growth in e-mobility and other industries will spike demand.”
An indispensable component for EV battery technology, and largely sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the origination point of roughly 62 percent of global refined Cobalt – which is also a Nickel and Copper co-product – has quickly become one of the hottest commodities.
Meanwhile, sourcing from the DRC has long been fraught with challenges with production conditions commonly known to involve child labor and poor environmental standards. A recently mulled (and since decided) designation of Cobalt as a “strategic material” on the part of the DRC, leading to a higher tax rate of 5 instead of so far 2 percent, has thrown another wrinkle in the already challenging global Cobalt supply picture.
Sweden is home to automaker Volvo, which in 2017 made headlines when it announced that all newly-launched vehicles from 2019 onward will be “partially or completely battery-powered.”
The move to explore for domestic Cobalt and Lithium also fits in the overall context of the country’s mineral strategy, unveiled in 2016.
Thankfully, from a U.S. perspective, policy makers are beginning to wake up to the global resource race and the need to formulate a critical mineral strategy and a national action plan to secure critical resources. Here’s hoping the movement set in motion late last year with Executive Order 13817 will not fizzle. As the case of Sweden shows, other nations will not sit idly at the sidelines.
As Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts, testified before U.S. Senators in the fall of 2017:
“This energy storage revolution is global and unstoppable. For countries and corporations, positioning themselves accordingly to take advantage of this should be of paramount importance and longer term (~10 year) decisions need to be made.”