Why is cobalt expensive?

The reason why cobalt is expensive can be narrowed down to three points.

Cobalt is industrially produced as a byproduct of Copper and Nickel manufacture, which means that the volume produced is relatively small than say if your were producing steel from iron ore. So this limits supply.

Although much of the world's Co is produced by the Democratic Republic of Congo and indeed they house our largest reserves of the stuff (3.4 million tonnes - almost half of our total reserves) it is refined mostly in China. This of course introduces cost of transporting the material from one continent to another in order to obtain a final product.

Lastly, demand for Co has recently increased for use in lithium ion batteries as a substitute for phosphates. It is environmentally beneficial to make this substitution because if suplhates escape into our environment they can disrupt aquatic life by increasing the number of algae - which absorb oxygen - hence reducing the amount of oxygen available for other living creatures in the water e.g. fish hence causing them to die.

To summarise, reason for high price:

1. Increase in demand for use in Lithium ion batteries
2. Costs of transporting Co long distances for refinement
3. Low supply of Co because it is made as a byproduct of Nickel and Cu