You may not know much about the metal cobalt, but chances are you’re not far from it.
Cobalt is used in the batteries powering millions of tech gadgets that use Lithium-ion batteries, such as smartphones.
The problem with it is that the price has doubled in the last year alone.
“We are definitely entering a period of deficit and that will start this year,” says Lara Smith, managing director of Core Consultants, a commodities researcher.
“In 2016, the supply of cobalt was about 104,000 tonnes and demand was about 103,500. Hybrid and electric vehicles are in a nascent growth phase, so as we continue along this track we expect there to be a greater and greater deficit.”
“Electric vehicle market penetration around the world is projected to grow 26% this year alone,” chief executive of First Cobalt Corporation in Toronto, Trent Mell says.
“We are predicting a growth rate in cobalt demand of 5% per year for the next five years. On the supply side, the pipeline of new production is pretty scarce.
“To bring up a mine to full production can take up to 10 years.”
This shortage in the supply of tech-dependent metals is not limited to cobalt.
Many modern electronics rely on metals such as neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium to make them faster, lighter, stronger, and more energy efficient.
However, these rare earth metals, along with minor metals such as lithium and tantalum, are now just as important as the traditional base metals and precious metals.
Many realised how big an issue supplying the necessary metals could become in 2010-11 when the prices of several rare and minor metals skyrocketed.
The fact that the tech industry is so dependent on these materials and that many of them are coming from China is a big problem.
A lot of countries don’t want to open new mining and processing facilities because they are deemed “dirty” and environmentally unpopular.
One way of breaking China’s stranglehold is to recycle the materials.
Apple is a leader in this field, marshaling a line of robots called ‘Liam’ to disassemble used iPhones in a few seconds.
This allows the recovery and reuse of many of the materials used, such as cobalt, indium, and gold.
But it’s hard for technology companies to predict what will happen a decade from now. If supplies of crucial elements dwindle, supply will soon outstrip demand leading to the prices of new gadgets rising further.
If you have never considered buying refurbished IT, this is another reason to make the switch.
If you would like to speak to someone at Tier 1 about recycling your unwanted computers and accessories then call us on 0161 777 1000.