Cobalt is not very abundant in the Earth’s crust and most of it is found in association with other metals, such as nickel and copper. The main sources of cobalt are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which accounts for more than half of the global production, followed by Australia, Canada, Cuba, Russia, and Zambia.
The “cobalt belt” in Congo is a region that is home to the largest deposits of this metal in the world, but it is also an area of great poverty and labor exploitation. Cobalt is sold to intermediaries who export it to international companies, without traceability or social responsibility for the origin and impact of this mineral.
The processing of cobalt ores involves several steps, including crushing, grinding, and flotation. Flotation is a process that separates the desired minerals from the rest of the ore using chemicals that selectively bind to the minerals. This process results in a concentrate that contains a high percentage of cobalt.
After the concentrate has been produced, it is usually further processed to refine the cobalt and remove impurities. The exact methods used to refine cobalt depend on the specific application and the purity requirements. One common method is to use a solvent extraction process, which involves dissolving the cobalt in an acidic solution and then using an organic solvent to selectively extract the cobalt. The extracted cobalt is then purified and made into a final product, such as a metal or a chemical compound.
Data from Delta Analysis and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
To download the data, click the cloud in the right corner at the bottom of the figure.