Cobalt is a strategic and critical metal used in many diverse industrial and military applications. The largest use of cobalt is in superalloys, which are used to make jet engine parts. Cobalt is also used in magnetic alloys and in cutting and wear-resistant materials such as cemented carbides. The chemical industry consumes significant quantities of cobalt in a variety of applications including catalysts for petroleum and chemical processing; drying agents for paints and inks; ground coats for porcelain enamels; decolorizers for ceramics and glass; and pigments for ceramics, paints, and plastics.
Cobalt is almost always produced as a byproduct of other more abundant metals. Currently, more than one-half of the world's supply is produced as a byproduct of copper mining and refining in Zaire and Zambia. Cobalt production in most other countries is a byproduct of nickel mining and/or refining. Although some producers can increase or decrease the amount of cobalt mined or refined, most cobalt production is ultimately dependent on the production of copper and nickel.
The United States is the world's largest consumer of cobalt, but currently has no domestic mine or refinery production. Therefore, the United States is 100% dependent on imports for its supply of primary cobalt. In terms of total supply, currently about 15% of U.S. cobalt consumption is from recycled scrap, resulting in a net import reliance of 85%. To ensure an adequate supply for military, industrial, and essential civilian needs during a national emergency, cobalt metal is included in the National Defense Stockpile.
- Table 1.--Salient cobalt statistic
- Table 2.--U.S. reported consumption of cobalt, by form
- Table 3.--U.S. reported consumption of cobalt, by end use
- Table 4.--U.S. imports for consumption of cobalt, by form
- Table 5.--U.S. imports for consumption of cobalt, by country
- Table 6.--U.S. exports of cobalt, by form
- Table 7.--U.S. cobalt prices
- Table 8.--Yearend Government and industrial stocks of cobalt
- Table 9.--Cobalt: World mine production, by country