Glencore buys stake in UK battery maker, secures cobalt offtake


GLENCORE has bought a stake in Britishvolt, allowing the UK battery maker to secure long-term supplies of key material cobalt, reported Bloomberg News.

Britishvolt is building the UK’s first giant battery factory in northern England. It will produce batteries for electric vehicles, with demand set to grow as the UK bans sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by the end of the decade, the newswire said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is trying to avoid falling behind in a transcontinental competition to chip away at the dominance of Asian battery makers and Tesla Inc. Johnson has committed £1bn pounds to help build factories that can produce batteries at scale.

The world’s biggest producer of cobalt, Glencore will supply 30% of the metal that Britishvolt uses from 2024 to 2030, said the Financial Times.

Glencore already supplies BMW and Tesla with the metal from its mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Australia. Tesla has been working with Glencore and other miners to develop a blockchain platform to ensure cobalt is produced ethically in the DRC, the newspaper said.

In June, Glencore confirmed it would reopen its Mutanda Mining copper and cobalt project in the DRC by the end of 2021, about two years after idling the mine.

Mutanda produced 103,200 tons of copper and 25,100 tons of cobalt hydroxide in 2019 compared with 199,000 tons and 27,300 tons respectively in 2018. It has five copper production lines and three cobalt hydroxide lines.

The mine was responsible for a fifth of global cobalt production in 2018, said Bloomberg News citing Darton Commodities, a UK-based firm that specialises in the metal.

According to a Goldman Sachs report in early May, the world copper market would flip into a deficit this year. “Our commodities team [is] expecting a 242,000 tons deficit in 2021,” the bank said.