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What is cobalt?

Cobalt (Co) is a metal that occurs naturally in many different minerals and deposit types. It is valued for its stability, anti-corrosion, and resistance to high temperatures.

Cobalt is rarely mined on its own. Nearly all the world’s cobalt is produced as a byproduct of copper and nickel, another 2 critical minerals commonly mined in Australia.

When smelted into its metal form, cobalt is a shiny, silvery grey colour.

Where is cobalt found?

Australia has the second largest resources of cobalt in the world and Queensland holds approximately 14% of these resources.

Queensland has a well-established copper industry, with about 10 kilotonnes of cobalt present in the ore mined each year. However, this cobalt is currently not recovered, and ends up in copper mine tailings. Mine tailings are the materials left over after the main metal or mineral has been extracted. Most of Queensland’s cobalt is found in North West and Central Queensland.

How is cobalt used?

Cobalt is used in many ways depending on its form.

Over half of the world’s supply of cobalt is refined into its chemical form and used in rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and portable electronic devices—think mobile phones, laptop computers and tablets.

Cobalt is used to make alloys by refining it into a metal form and combining it with other metals to increase wear and temperature resistance, and strength. Alloys can be found in jet and rocket engines and artificial body parts.

It’s also used to make magnets.

Ever seen a striking blue in a painting or ceramic piece? Cobalt is likely responsible for this too, hence the name of the shade 'cobalt blue'!

However, the biggest demand for cobalt is driven by the rechargeable batteries and battery storage industry and is set to increase 10 fold by 2030.

Cobalt and renewable energy

Cobalt plays a critical role in the manufacturing of batteries essential for storing solar and wind energy. It boasts 2 inherent properties crucial for battery applications: thermal stability and high energy density.

Whether exposed to sunlight or harnessing wind power, cobalt is important to guarantee optimal functionality of renewable energy sources. This metal works quietly behind the scenes, making a significant contribution to our quest for a more sustainable future.

Last updated
06 March 2024
Last reviewed
21 February 2023