“The cobalt casts a shadow on the green car”

LIs the combustion engine slowly dying? Renault is ready, in any case, to brandish the extinguisher from 2030 in Europe. An electric pioneer with its dashing Zoe, the automaker anticipates the launch of ten new battery-powered vehicles by 2025. Including a revisited version of the Renault 5. Or how to bet on a flashback for those nostalgic for this iconic model…

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This foot-to-earth conversion of the French car brand to all-electric is helping to energize the cobalt market, knowing that a Renault Zoe heart beats at the rate of 7 kg of lithium, 11 kg of cobalt, 11 kg of manganese and 34 kg of nickel. However, the blue metal ended the year 2021 propelled towards the skies of the Riviera.

Its price exceeded the bar of 70,000 dollars (61,200 euros) per ton on the London Metal Exchange. That is almost a doubling in price in one year. Even if the stratospheric record of 95,000 dollars per ton reached in 2018 has not been broken, the upward trajectory is spectacular. Cobalt drum beating… And market interest is undeniable. The Singapore Stock Exchange is preparing to launch a cobalt futures contract in the first half of 2022.

Discussions in Brussels

Compared to the 6 grams slipped into the battery of a smartphone, the quantity of this metal contained in electric batteries weighs heavily in speculation. It is also the entry into the paddocks of Elon Musk, with his Tesla, which launched the movement. Since then, all car manufacturers have been on the sidelines, driven, it is true, by more stringent environmental regulations.

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But the blue metal casts a shadow over the green car. The rich subsoil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has nearly two thirds of the cobalt reserves. A country where mining conditions are tinged with corruption and the use of child labor in artisanal mines. An ethical puzzle for buyers. The search for new veins therefore makes investors fantasize.

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Thus billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg have chosen to bet on KoBold Metals. This Californian start-up prides itself on creating a Google Maps map of the earth’s crust, a true digital detector of “ethical cobalt”. In the summer of 2021, it signed an agreement with Bluejay Mining to extract rare natural resources, including cobalt, in Greenland. A research project for ores for electric batteries which should attract the wrath of environmentalists.

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Reference-www.lemonde.fr

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Mark Holland

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