CHANGSHA, May 21 (SMM) –China's cobalt consumption structure shifted from traditional industry to battery industry, said Serafina Huo, cobalt senior analyst at SMM, citing the flow of cobalt raw materials in China shifted from alloys and magnetic materials to LCO and ternary batteries from 2000 to 2020, and the demand for cobalt from battery sector accounted for 57% in 2020.
China's cobalt resources are highly dependent on imports, with ternary materials demand for cobalt at a compound growth rate of 56%, Huo told delegates at the 6th China International Nickel Cobalt Lithium Summit, which is organised by SMM in Changsha, Hunan province on May 21.
In January to February 2021, the increase in domestic cobalt raw material imports mainly came from the cobalt intermediate products and unwrought cobalt. The imports of cobalt concentrate still trended lower. The average import price of cobalt hydrometallurgical intermediate products stood at $35,410/mt in January and February, an increase of 47% year on year, said Huo.
Cobalt prices fell as demand from motive power battery plants declined on the pandemic in Q1 2020; cobalt prices trended higher as demand from NEVs recovered in Q3, digital 3C equipment demand exceeded expectations and raw materials stocks tightened. Prices rose amid tight supply of domestic raw materials in Q1 2021; prices are expected to weaken in Q2 amid the low season of restocking.
The analyst expected cobalt prices to continue to rise in the short term amid tight cobalt raw material inventories, while in the long run, battery cathode materials will still be dominated by high nickel ternary, pressuring on price increase of cobalt.