Why the Responsible Sourcing of Cobalt Goes Beyond Batteries

Why the Responsible Sourcing of Cobalt Goes Beyond Batteries

The lithium-ion battery enabled more mobility in electronics, enormously impacting the way we use many devices. Increased demand for the batteries — and the cobalt integral to their production — has created greater scrutiny of the metal and mining practices surrounding it, though cobalt remains out of scope of conflict minerals regulations. Those legislations currently only govern the mining of tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (3TGs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjoining regions.

Undocumented cobalt may originate from artisanal mines (ASMs). These smaller-scale operations are potentially exploited by armed groups in the region and may have with poor working conditions or human rights violations, such as child or forced labor practices. As such, a growing number of companies have begun adding cobalt to their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

Companies that use lithium-ion batteries in their supply chain, such as Intel, Ford and LG, have been proactive in addressing sourcing issues in cobalt, but the metal is used for more than batteries. 


For more information on cobalt, including how to prepare your program, download our eBook.


According to the Global Energy Metals Corp, 51 percent of cobalt demand was driven by lithium-ion batteries in 2016, meaning nearly half the demand came from other uses, such as superalloys, hard metals, dyes and ceramics. All companies with cobalt in their supply chains are encouraged by groups such as Amnesty International and the Cobalt Institute to begin responsible sourcing programs and assist in the global movement to end child labor and other human rights violations in cobalt mines.

Cobalt’s uncommon properties make it essential to many industries and companies, and the following verticals should consider adding cobalt to their existing responsible minerals program:

Aerospace & Defense

Cobalt is frequently used in the creation of superalloys, or metals built to withstand high heat and resist corrosion, which are used in products such as:

  • Jet engines.
  • Gas-turbine engines.
  • Space vehicles.
  • And more.

Medical Devices & Healthcare

Cobalt-based superalloys resist corrosion, making them ideal for surgically-implanted pins or bracings. Due to their strength and flexibility, superalloys are also commonly used in medical prosthetics such as hip and other joint replacements.

In addition to its surgical uses, cobalt is used in the detection of brain and lung tumors, as well as radiation therapy treatment. Cobalt is also used in some sterilization processes to clean surgical equipment.

Industrial Equipment

Cobalt is used as a metallic binder for cemented carbides, or hard metals such as tungsten carbide, which is used in a variety of high-performance tools, including:

  • Saws.
  • Cutters.
  • Mills.
  • Drills.
  • Diggers.
  • Metal rollers.
  • And other products for manufacturing.

Automotive

Lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles will be the primary driver of cobalt demand in the automotive industry, but cobalt is also used as a bonding agent in the production of rubber tires, and as a superalloy in some engines and car parts.


Assent’s Conflict Minerals Module prepares companies to meet their requirements established by global regulations, learn more here.


Prepare Your Program

The DRC, a region known for political instability and armed conflict, supplies over 60 percent of the world’s cobalt, and is projected to supply more in the near future. The lack of transparency and government oversight has contributed to an environment in which miners may be exploited, and mines that supply cobalt have been the subject of investigative reports into human rights violations. This has impacted the reputation of companies that use cobalt, and is a growing concern for businesses. 

Cobalt will continue to be highly sought-after for its ability to enhance sustainable energy and electric vehicles. However, companies that leverage this metal will need transparency in their supply chain in order to mitigate the operational and reputational risks associated with how it is mined. 

Assent Compliance is the global leader in supply chain data management, offering a centralized platform that automates data collection to help companies more efficiently meet their regulatory and internal requirements. To learn more, contact us at info@assentcompliance.com.

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