Cobalt is perhaps the most problematic metal required for EV battery production, because of its relative scarcity and its association with human rights abuses in the artisanal mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In fact, the only cobalt mine is in DRC. All other sources of the metal are derived from chemical processes associated with copper and nickel.

Global Reserve

Cobalt plays an integral role in lithium-ion battery production and can comprising between five and thirty percent of the battery cathode depending on chemistry (BNEF, 2018). Currently, global cobalt reserves are estimated to be 6.9 million metric tons (USGS 2019). These resources are significant enough that they do not yet threaten depletion of the element. However, global distribution of cobalt is extremely concentrated, which does have the potential to disrupt supply. 

Half of all cobalt reserves are located in a single country: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which possesses an estimated 3.4 million metric tons (USGS 2019). As depicted in the graph below, Australia and Cuba follow the DRC and hold an estimated 1.2 million and 500 thousand metric tons respectively. 

Annual Extraction Capacity

Global Demand


Total Demand:

EV Battery Demand:

Projected Growth

Total Demand:

EV Battery Demand: