Congo causes cobalt jump

A recent sharp rise in cobalt prices – benefiting Western Australian nickel producers with cobalt credits – has been attrib-uted to lower production in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Stockbroker Bell Securities Limited analyst Keith Goode says the increased price of cobalt will have a significant impact on the profitability of the nickel laterite producers, and to some degree on nickel sulphide producers.

He attributed the increase to the first presentation of Zambian/

Congolese cobalt production by United States marketing group MRG at the London-based Cobalt Development Institute’s conference in May, which high-lighted faIling cobalt production with small inventories in both Zambia and the Congo. Between them they provided less than 38 per cent of last year’s world production of lower than 34,000t.

At Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), production has been gradually falling from 400 tonnes per annum in August 1998 to an estimated 146 tpa in August 1999, and stocks have falIen from an average of 1,327t between 1988 and 1998 to 102t.

At Gecamines, production fell from 386 tpa in October 1998 to 71 tpa in February 1999, while its stocks dropped from 3,333t between 1990 and 1998 to 800t.

At the British conference, a forecast of possible cobalt demand compared to supply indicated a shortfall. Combined with the realisation that the Canadian producers had apparently run down their inventories at the end of last year and Japan was trying to obtain supplies of cobalt, prices started to rise.

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