Top News

person holding a gloved hand out with graphics showing cobalt uses floating above it

Australia is the world's third biggest producer of cobalt, and as companies look for ethical cobalt sources outside the DRC, the country's role will continue to grow.

Cobalt prices have been trending up this past year, with analysts remaining bullish on the key raw material, which is used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Demand is soaring as the electronics industry comes to rely on cobalt, and its use will only increase as the world continues to digitise and electrify.

EV sales are on the rise, and these vehicles require lithium-ion batteries to run. Typically around 9 kilograms of cobalt are used to manufacture each battery, and one battery alone can have as much as 20 kilograms. As long as demand for EVs continues to go up, so too will demand for cobalt — and the EV boom has only just begun.

Cobalt is also key in several different alloys with a variety of uses, including in gas turbine engines and magnets. Particularly tough cobalt alloys, such as tungsten carbide and chromium-cobalt, can be used to cut and drill steel.


So where should keen investors look for exposure to this promising metal? The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has long been the top producer of cobalt worldwide; according to the US Geological Survey, it accounted for about 70 percent of cobalt production in 2020. What's more, the World Bank predicts that within two years, a whopping 73 percent of the world’s cobalt will be mined in the DRC.

However, the DRC’s mining industry is known for unsustainable mining practices and unchecked labour abuses, including child labour. The country cannot maintain its current level of production indefinitely, and many conscious investors are seeking more ethical alternatives.

Australia is one such alternative. Australia contains about 16 percent of global cobalt resources, but is currently responsible for only about 5 percent of global cobalt output. Between the country’s sustainable mining practices and its de-risked ventures, Australia is a great pick for shrewd investors interested in the cobalt-mining industry.

Cobalt in Australia: The history of cobalt mining

Cobalt has been used since antiquity for its bright blue colouration, but the metal was only officially discovered in 1742 by Swedish chemist Georg Brandt.

Up until 1874, European mineral deposits were the primary sites of cobalt production. That year, Europe was overtaken by New Caledonia, and in 1905 Canadian deposits pulled ahead. Since around 1920, the DRC has been a major global producer of cobalt, and its cobalt-mining legacy has continued to this day. Another contemporary cobalt behemoth, China, has only made its mark as a leading producer within the last couple of decades.

In the early 20th century, cobalt’s primary application began shifting away from cosmetic purposes and toward technological pursuits. For example, in 1930, cobalt alloys containing a mixture of cobalt, aluminium, nickel and iron were first used to make high-powered permanent magnets. Other alloys were soon discovered to have varied uses for building electrical equipment and electronic devices.

Cobalt is mainly found in compounds, such as cobalt arsenide, cobalt sulfarsenide and hydrated arsenate, and it is predominantly used for alloy production. Generally, cobalt does not come from cobalt mines — in fact, 98 percent of global cobalt is a by-product from nickel and copper mines. Copper mines account for about 60 percent of global cobalt output, and nickel mines around 38 percent.

Cobalt in Australia: The Australian landscape

According to Australia’s 2020 list of critical minerals projects, there are 68 cobalt-focused projects across Australia.

The largest is Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) Murrin Murrin nickel-cobalt mine, which launched in 1998 and is located in the Northeastern Goldfields region of Western Australia. The mine produces an impressive 66.7 percent of the country’s cobalt. Unlike other mines, many of which suffered a decline in cobalt output during the pandemic, Murrin Murrin experienced an uptick in production, which rose 14 percent year-over-year in 2020.

Murrin Murrin uses conventional open-pit mining for its resource extraction, and it processes and refines cobalt ore on site. In 2018, the mine produced 39,717 tonnes of nickel, alongside 3,244 tonnes of cobalt by-product.

In 2020, Glencore produced a total of around 27,400 tonnes of cobalt between all of its operations, including those in the DRC. In addition to production, the company also processes and recycles cobalt-containing materials.

Another notable cobalt project in the country is the Broken Hill cobalt project, a new mining endeavour owned by Cobalt Blue Holdings (ASX:COB,OTC Pink:CBBHF). This project is unique for its emphasis on cobalt production — cobalt will be directly produced on site, rather than extracted as a by-product of nickel.

The Broken Hill project is anticipated to have an output of around 4,000 tonnes of cobalt annually over a 20 year mine lifespan. Broken Hill’s cobalt production process will include concentration, leaching, calcining and project recovery, and the site expects annual sulphur output of 300,000 tonnes, which will hike up the project’s value.

Importantly, Broken Hill will both produce and refine its cobalt — a welcome change from sending the raw material to another country, most often China, for refinement. This practice will reduce the unethical labour practices along the chain of production.

Many other top cobalt-producing companies have active sites in Australia, including Panoramic Resources (ASX:PAN,OTC Pink:PANRF), Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ,OTCQB:AMSLF) and Clean TeQ Holdings (ASX:CNQ). These ventures are all top nickel miners and strong producers of cobalt as a by-product.

Cobalt in Australia: The future down under

The Australian government is enthusiastic about the country’s move toward mining critical minerals, establishing a Critical Minerals Facilitation Office in January 2020 as part of a push for its burgeoning minerals sector.

Currently, Australia is the third biggest producer of cobalt worldwide, at 5,700,000 tonnes in 2020.

Unlike many other countries that saw major drops in 2020 cobalt production due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia only saw a small dip, down from 5,740,000 tonnes in 2019.

This is because restrictions in other countries forced the temporarily suspension of mining facilities, but low case counts allowed for production in Australia to carry on as usual throughout the pandemic.

According to a 2020 report by Fitch Solutions, cobalt mining in Australia continues to look up. It predicts that the next decade will see a spike in Australian cobalt production, with expected average output growth of 5.3 percent per year from 2021 to 2029, as compared to average output growth of only 2.4 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Moreover, despite the fact that Australia is the third largest cobalt producer worldwide, it has the second largest reserves of cobalt. This means that the country has the potential to scale up its production slowly and sustainably, situating itself as a major world player.

Between the exploding EV market and the continued trend toward electronics sales and digitisation, cobalt will likely remain a hot commodity in the mining world for years to come. Investors should be paying close attention to cobalt production, and particularly to cobalt mining in Australia, where strong cobalt output, new mining ventures and sustainable extraction practices are setting the country up for long-term success.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Featured

Highlights: – Former Xstrata plc executive, Mr. Ian Woolsey, has joined Jervois as Group Manager Information Technology – Mr. Woolsey will lead the IT integration of Freeport Cobalt in Finland, Idaho Cobalt Operations in the United States and the São Miguel Paulista nickel-cobalt refinery in Brazil – Mr. Woolsey joins Jervois after more than 10 years with Glencore Xstrata where he led the IT integration of major …

(TheNewswire)

read more Show less

AustralianSuper announces that it acquired 47,534,965 ordinary shares in the capital of Jervois Mining Limited on 27 October 2020 and a further 13,120,773 Shares on 3 December 2020 such that immediately following the second acquisition, AustralianSuper held a total of 108,450,700 of the issued and outstanding Shares in Jervois. The Shares were acquired pursuant to private placements by Jervois to institutional and …

AustralianSuper announces that it acquired 47,534,965 ordinary shares (“Shares”) in the capital of Jervois Mining Limited (ASX: JRV) (TSXV: JRV) (“Jervois”) on 27 October 2020 and a further 13,120,773 Shares on 3 December 2020 such that immediately following the second acquisition, AustralianSuper held a total of 108,450,700 (or approximately 13.71%) of the issued and outstanding Shares in Jervois.

The Shares were acquired pursuant to private placements by Jervois to institutional and sophisticated investors. The average purchase price per Share was AUD0.305/ CAD0.29 for an aggregate total purchase consideration of AUD18.5 million/ CAD17.6 million .

read more Show less

HIGHLIGHTS: -James May becomes Jervois’ CFO after almost 15 years in leadership roles with Rio Tinto -Mr May’s most recent role in Rio Tinto was as Interim Vice President, Sales and Marketing for the Energy & Minerals portfolio, based in Singapore -Mr May was also previously the CFO of Energy Resources of Australia Limited, an ASX-listed uranium miner, majority owned by Rio Tinto -Mr May also worked in various …

(TheNewswire)

read more Show less
australia shown from space
ixpert / Shutterstock

Which ASX technology stocks performed the best in 2021? Here’s a look at the five top ASX technology stocks by share price performance.

Australia is home to a thriving tech sector with fresh investment opportunities emerging across a variety of subsectors, such as gaming, fintech, healthcare and cleantech.

The technology sector currently contributes about AU$167 billion to the Australian economy, according to research commissioned by the Technology Council of Australia. This figure has increased by 79 percent from 2016, representing a growth rate that is more than four times that of most industries. In fact, the tech sector is the third largest economic sector in Australia, behind mining and finance/insurance.

Unsurprisingly, many tech stocks on the ASX have performed well in this landscape.


Below the Investing News Network profiles the five best ASX technology stocks in terms of share price performance in 2021. Data for the companies was gathered on December 31, 2021, using TradingView’s stock screener, and all of the best ASX technology stocks listed had market caps above AU$10 million at that time.

1. Novonix

Market cap: AU$4.45 billion; year-to-date gain: 659.5 percent

The first of the best ASX tech stocks on this list is battery technology company Novonix (ASX:NVX), which specializes in developing battery testing equipment for the worldwide lithium-ion battery market. The company was spun out from Dr. Jeff Dahn’s lab at Dalhousie University; Dr. Dahn is one of the pioneers of the lithium-ion battery.

While not yet a revenue generator, the company has benefited from the explosive growth expected out of the fast-moving global electric vehicle (EV) industry.

In December, Novonix announced preliminary results from an environmental impact study; they show the company’s synthetic graphite EV and energy storage system (ESS) battery anode product offers an approximate 60 percent decrease in CO2 emissions, potentially making it “2.5 times better for the environment than Chinese synthetic graphite EV and ESS battery anode material,” as per the Market Herald.

2. Oneview Healthcare

Market cap: AU$114.57 million; year-to-date gain: 488.89 percent

Oneview Healthcare’s (ASX:ONE) interactive software platform offers digital tools to healthcare providers, patients and families to improve point of care outcomes.

This past spring, the global healthcare tech company launched its cloud-based care platform. “Deployed on Microsoft Azure, this platform enables health systems to quickly adopt technology for engaging patients, reducing non-clinical demands on care teams and optimising clinical and operational effectiveness,” notes a press release.

Oneview has signed a number of contracts for the use of this platform, including with Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, Northern Health in Melbourne and Kingman Regional Medical Center in Arizona. In late November, Oneview raised AU$20 million in a private placement with plans to use the funds to further product development, scale its cloud enterprise and strengthen its balance sheet.

3. Emyria

Market cap: AU$105.86 million; year-to-date gain: 318.48 percent

Emyria (ASX:EMD) is a healthcare technology company that specializes in data-backed drug development and operates a network of medical clinics. Using proprietary clinical evidence, the company develops registered treatments for underserved medical needs.

Emyria’s current drug development programs center on cannabidiol (CBD) medicines for mental health, CBD/THC treatments for irritable bowel syndrome and MDMA treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In late November, one of Australia’s largest private investment groups, Tattarang, made a AU$5 million investment in Emyria, which will help the company further advance its drug development work.

4. PlaySide Studios

Market cap: AU$445.38 million; year-to-date gain: 139.13 percent

PlaySide Studios (ASX:PLY) develops mobile games, virtual reality, augmented reality and PC games. The company’s portfolio consists of 52 titles, including original intellectual property games, as well as games developed with the worlds’ largest studios, such as Disney (NYSE:DIS), Warner Bros and Nickelodeon.

PlaySide Studios is Australia’s largest publicly listed gaming technology company, and following its 2020 initial public offering, it generated revenue of AU$10.88 million for the 2021 fiscal year. In November, the company inked a landmark deal with 2K Games, a label of Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ:TTWO).

In the last weeks of 2021, PlaySide signed a number of deals, including a contract with Shiba Inu Games and a partnership with One True King to co-develop a PC-based game, which will also provide access to One True King's 21 million global followers.

5. Universal Biosensors

Market cap: AU$175.98 million; year-to-date gain: 127.59 percent

Last on this list of best ASX tech stocks is medical device technology company Universal Biosensors (ASX:UBI), which develops, manufactures and commercializes diagnostic testing systems for point-of-care providers and at-home use. It has products for blood glucose monitoring, coagulation testing, immunoassays and molecular diagnostics.

“UBI’s biosensor technology platform has been used to deliver more than 10 billion diagnostic tests to patients worldwide generating billions of dollars in sales,” states a company presentation. “We have licensed and partnered new technology and new biosensors with global applications.”

In November, Universal Biosensors signed a three year master collaboration agreement with Mayo Clinic Biopharma Diagnostics. The deal includes work on Universal Biosensors’ Tn antigen cancer biosensor. In late December, the company entered into a global exclusive license agreement with IQ Science for the commercialization of a SARS-CoV-2 N-protein detection test that will use Universal Biosensors' proprietary electrochemical strip and device technology.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

australian bills with gold coin
Schlachta Stanislav / Shutterstock

Looking for the best-performing cobalt stocks on the ASX? Here's a look at the three top gainers of 2021.

Cobalt prices have soared this past year, with investors paying more attention to this battery metal.

A large reason for cobalt’s bullish behaviour is that it is used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles (EVs) — as demand for EVs continues to rise, it's likely cobalt demand will remain strong too.

Currently the future of EVs looks bright — the market is growing quickly and is expected to boom over the next decade. In the first half of 2021 alone, EV sales ballooned by 160 percent, and by the end of the year, a total of 15 countries had announced measures to begin transitioning toward an all-electric future.


The three top cobalt-producing countries worldwide are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia and Australia — the last of which is investing in ramping up its production of the metal.

With that in mind, which Australian cobalt miners gained the most value in 2021? Read on to learn more about the three best cobalt companies on the ASX by year-to-date share price gains. All information was obtained on December 30, 2021, using TradingView's stock screener.

1. Jervois Global

Year-to-date gain: 63.89 percent; current share price: AU$0.59

Jervois Global (ASX:JRV) is best known for its Finland operations, which produce cobalt for chemical, catalyst, pigment, powder metallurgy and — most significantly — battery applications. The company is currently in the process of launching its new Idaho Cobalt Operations (ICO) and is on track to become the first US cobalt miner.

On December 15, Jervois announced an update on ICO, saying first ore is expected in August 2022, with sustainable production expected by December 2022. The estimated capital expenditure required to stay on schedule has risen to US$99.1 million, up from US$92.6 million, with mine engineering 64 percent complete.

2. Cobalt Blue Holdings

Year-to-date gain: 177.78 percent; current share price: AU$0.50

Cobalt Blue Holdings (ASX:COB) is a rare cobalt-only company, and defines itself by its planned ethical and sustainable extraction and production processes. The firm's flagship New South Wales-based Broken Hill project is slated to produce an average of 3,500 to 3,600 tonnes per year of cobalt once in operation.

In December 2021, Cobalt Blue Holdings announced it has executed a memorandum of understanding with the State of Queensland, acting through the Department of Resources, to assess opportunities for the recovery of cobalt (as well as any coexisting base and precious metals) from mine waste.

3. Australian Mines

Year-to-date gain: 31.25 percent; current share price: AU$0.21

Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ) is aiming to supply metals to the growing EV industry, with a focus on ethical and sustainable production. Its flagship Queensland-based Sconi nickel-cobalt project boasts a mine life of over 30 years and will be capable of processing 2 million tonnes of ore annually.

In late October, Australian Mines reported on its quarterly activities, including an agreement for Korea-based LG Energy Solution, a top global producer of EV batteries, to buy 100 percent of the Sconi project’s nickel-cobalt hydroxide output over an initial six year term. The future agreement indicates that LG Energy Solution will buy a projected 7,000 tonnes of cobalt from Australian Mines over the six year period.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.