MAP: Coronavirus impact on cobalt supply, demand

The spread of the Covid-19 virus is forcing shutdowns and a reassessment of consumers’ cobalt requirements.

Prices of cobalt – metal, intermediates and salts – have so far taken a hit amid concerns of a general, global economic slowdown caused by the virus; a slower uptake in electric vehicle usage; and disrupted demand from the aerospace sector.

But lockdowns aimed at limiting the spread of the virus are also forcing disruptions on the supply side. And, with the number of confirmed cases starting to increase in Africa, government directives there have raised concerns over crucial export routes for shipping material to China, including border queues and adding to existing bottlenecks at ports.

In the map below, Fastmarkets summarizes the various supply disruptions and demand readjustments materializing out of the coronavirus pandemic.

This map will be updated as additional supply and demand responses appear.

Coronavirus disruption to cobalt supply and demand map Fastmarkets

Supply:
Late February – logistical delays in China
Empty containers pile up in Chinese ports after prolonged Lunar New Year holidays, resulting in delays to loading in Durban.

Mid-March – logistical delays in Europe 
Shutdowns at various borders across Europe and restrictions on transportation of “non-essential goods” cause delivery delays.

March 22 – lockdown in Haut Katanga, DRC 
A 48-hour lockdown in Haut Katanga raises concerns over Democratic Republic of Congo-wide production vulnerabilities

March 22 – border closures, DRC/Zambia and DRC/Tanzania
Lockdown in Haut Katanga creates delays, queues at borders with Tanzania and Zambia, which provide crucial trucking routes to ports for export to Asia.

March 24 – CTT, Morocco 
CTT suspends production for two weeks amid lockdown in Morocco aimed at preventing spread of coronavirus. About 2,000 tonnes of cobalt in the form of broken cathodes was produced by CTT last year.

March 24 – border closures, Zambia 
Zambian government makes recommendation that transportation of cross-border cargo be suspended from March 27; President later says a phased plan will see essential businesses dealing in goods and services continuing.

March 26 – lockdown in South Africa 
South Africa enters 21-day shutdown raising uncertainty over typical routes for export of hydroxide from Durban to Asia. Port priority given to essential supplies.

March 26 – Ambatovy, Madagascar 
Ambatovy temporarily closes as local curfews come into place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Ambatovy produced about 3,000 tonnes of cobalt in the form of briquettes last year.

Demand:
Late January-early March – GEM, China 
GEM suspends its battery precursor materials and cobalt sulfate production for over one month during lockdown in Hubei province, but met overseas orders with existing inventories

March 17 – Volvo, Sweden, Belgium and US 
Volvo closes its Belgium plant on March 17 until April 5 while its Swedish and US plants are closed between March 26 and April 14.

March 17 – BMW, Germany and UK 
BMW closes its European automotive plants for over a month.

March 18 – Toyota, Japan, France, UK, Poland and Czech Republic 
Toyota will stop seven production lines at its five facilities in Japan from April 3 for 3-9 days, after it announced a “progressive suspension” of its various European production sites.

March 20, Jaguar Land Rover, UK and Slovakia 
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) suspends production at its manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom and its Nitra plant in Slovakia.

March 23, Volkswagen, Slovakia 
Volkswagen suspends output at its European production hub in Bratislava, Slovakia, after the Slovakian government declares a state of emergency.

March 23, Tesla, US 
Tesla suspends production in Fremont, California, and Buffalo, New York, with the exception of basic operations.

March 25, Boeing, US 
Operations suspended for two weeks after the death of one employee from Covid-19.

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