The 10 Biggest Cobalt Producers 2014

Cobalt, which is primarily extracted as a by-product of nickel and copper ores, is mined in large quantities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Russia, Canada and Australia.

Cobalt refineries, however, are rarely located near the source mine sites. Instead, major refiners purchase cobalt concentrate from various mines and ship to their own locations.

In 2014, global cobalt production was 91,754 metric tonnes (MT). The nine largest individual producers, plus China, accounted for over 40 percent of this total.

Yet, production statistics from most individual Chinese refiners are difficult to obtain. Chinese production statistics have, consequently, been aggregated under a single heading in the list below.

Statistics for the list are based on numbers provided by the Cobalt Development Institute. 

Refined cobalt production figures for 2014 below are indicated in metric tonnes beside each company's name.

China (Various) - 39,292MT

Workers and machinery in quarry
Martin Barraud / Getty Images

China's largest cobalt producers include Jinchuan Nonferrous Metals Corp., Huayou Cobalt Co., Ltd., Jiangsu Cobalt Nickel Metal Co., Ltd. and Shenzhen Green Eco-manufacture Hi-tech Co., Ltd., which each have annual refined cobalt production capacities of over 7,000 metric tonnes.

Large increases in the capacity of Chinese cobalt refining over the past decade has pushed the country to become the world's largest source of refined production, accounting for over 40 percent global output. More

Freeport Cobalt (Finland) - 11,452MT

Freeport's Kokkola cobalt refinery in Finland is a major producer of cobalt chemicals for pigment, ceramic, powder metallurgy, battery and other chemical applications.

The refinery was acquired from OM Group, Inc. in 2013 by a consortium led by Freeport-McMoRan and including Tenke Fungurume Mining, Lundin Mining Corp., and Gecamines. It now operates as Freeport Cobalt.

This group also has a large ownership stake and operates the Tenke Fungurume Mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This provides the Kokkola with a steady supply of cobalt concentrate. More

Glencore (Various) - 9,300MT

Glencore's operation in Nikkelverk, Norway is the largest nickel refinery in the western world. Nickel concentrates containing cobalt, as well gold, platinum, and palladium, are imported from mines in Canada (Sudbury and Raglan) and other custom feed sources for processing.

The company also has large cobalt refineries in Minara, Australia, and Katanga, DRC. 

The company's refined cobalt output accounted for about 10 percent of global production in 2014. More

Umicore (Belgium) - 5,850MT

Specialty metals refiner Umicore refines cobalt for its Cobalt and Specialty Materials (CSM) division at its facilities in Belgium and China. The company has been refining and selling cobalt products since 1912 and has more than doubled reported output since 2010. More

Chambishi / ENRC (Zambia) - 4,317MT

Chambishi Metals PLC is a Zambian copper and cobalt producer operated by ENRC Group (90% ownership). The company's mining, tolling, and refining operations are all located within Zambia, while sales and marketing are handled by Dubai-based Comit Resources FZE.

Chambishi's 2014 cobalt production decreased by about 14 percent over 2013 to 4,317MT. More

Sumitomo (Japan) - 3,654MT

Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. (SMM) is a subsidiary of the Sumitomo Group, one of Japan's largest keiretsu, or business enterprises.

A large smelter and refiner of copper, nickel and gold, SMM has a 27.5 percent stake in the Ambatovy Nickel Project in Madagascar, along with Sherritt International and Korea Resources Corp.

The company's Niihama Nickel Refinery electrolytic nickel and cobalt in Japan. It's 2014 production increase over 25 percent from the year prior to 3,654MT. More

Sherritt / ICCI (Canada) - 3,210MT

Sherritt International of Canada has a 50 percent stake in the Moa Joint Venture (Cuba) and a 40 percent stake in the Ambatovy project (Madagascar).

The Moa Joint Venture is a vertically-integrated nickel and cobalt operation involving three companies: The Cobalt Refinery Company (CRC), International Cobalt Company Inc. (ICCI) and Moa Nickel SA.

Material is mined by subsidiaries of Sherritt and General Nickel Company SA at an open pit lateritic nickel mine in Cuba. Concentrates of nickel and cobalt are then shipped to Sherritt's Fort Saskatchewan facility for refining. More

Ambatovy (Madagascar) - 2,915MT

The US$ 7 billion dollar Ambatovy mine and refinery have put Madagascar on the world's metal map. Commercial production began in 2014, but Ambatovy is still ramping up to a targeted annual production of 60,000 tonnes of refined nickel and 5,600 tonnes of refined cobalt.

Ambatovy is a partnership of four companies – Sherritt International Corporation (40%) and SNC-Lavalin Incorporated (5%) from Canada, Sumitomo Corporation (27.5%) from Japan, and Korea Resources Corporation (27.5%) from Korea. More

Queensland Nickel PL (Australia) - 2,519MT

Queensland Nickel operates the Palmer Nickel and Cobalt Refinery  (also known as Yabulu), located about 25km (16 mi) north of Townsville, Queensland. 

Operational since 1974, the refinery has been reliant on imported ore from New Caledonia, Indonesia, and the Philippines since 1986.

Ore is transported via the Port of Townsville to the refinery by rail where cobalt is refined and sold as purified feedstock to cobalt chemical manufacturers. More

Norilsk Nickel (Russia) - 2,186MT

Norilsk Nickel is the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium and one of the largest producers of cobalt, platinum, and copper.

The company's main cobalt sources are the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company, the Polar Division and Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta (Finland).

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