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Critical mineral Cobalt to become even more indispensable?

New research from Swiss scientists indicates that Cobalt’s applications in solar technology may spark a surge in demand.

While it is certainly not as visible in the news as the oft-discussed Rare Earths, the fact that Cobalt has to be considered a critical mineral is not a secret.

In 2011, it was one of only four minerals to appear on all three recently published lists of critical metals: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Strategy list, the American Physical Society’s Panel on Public Affairs & Materials Research Society’s list of Energy Critical Elements, and the European Commission’s Critical Raw Materials list. (The other metals or element groups were REEs, Platinum Group Elements (PGEs), and Lithium.)

With its applications in industrial and various critical defense applications, it came as no surprise when Cobalt also took a top tier spot in the American Resources Risk Pyramid, a risk screen for metals and minerals used in U.S. defense applications we created in 2012.

However, with its new applications in solar technology, the metal may become even more indispensable, thus deepening supply challenges.

According to USGS data, the U.S. is home to significant Cobalt deposits, but our import dependency currently stands at 78 percent. As we have previously pointed out, the U.S. is largely dependent on China here, which has tied up a majority of the world’s cobalt through agreements with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s largest Cobalt supplier and hardly a reliable trading partner.

With vast mineral resources beneath our own soil, isn’t it time our policy makers focus on reducing our mineral resource dependencies and the challenges that arise from it?