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.
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 16 – Vale, Canada
Miner says it will put Voisey’s Bay on care and maintenance for four weeks. Production of cobalt rounds expected to continue uninterrupted from feedstock. On April 8, Vale says the care and maintenance period will be extended by up to three months.
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. Limited operations restarted about four weeks later.
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.
April 1 – Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp, Philippines
Mining and mineral processing plants in the Philippines’ southern province of Surigao del Norte, where THPAL is located, have been ordered to suspend operations from April 1, according to an order issued by the local governor on March 28. THPAL produces about 40,000 tpy of nickel and 5,000 tpy of cobalt in the form of nickel/cobalt mixed sulfide, and is one of the main sources of feedstock to Sumitomo Metal Mining.
The local governor's order also prohibits foreign and domestic vessels from entering the territorial water of the province except those carrying basic food and necessities, which has led to delays shipping feedstock from the Philippines to Japan, sources said.
May 11 – border closure, Zambia
Zambia temporarily closes its border crossing with Tanzania at Nakonde to all but essential goods in an effort to curb an increase in Covid-19 cases in the area, blocking off a key link to the port in Dar es Salaam.
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. Tesla says it is restarting operations in California on May 11.
March 25 – Boeing, US
Operations in Washington state suspended for two weeks after the death of one employee from Covid-19. On April 5, the company says operations are suspended indefinitely, taking account of the spread of the virus, government recommendations and supply chain reliability.
March 31 – electric vehicle subsidies, China
Chinese government extends its new energy vehicle purchase subsidy and tax exemption policy for two years beyond December 31, 2020, when it had originally been due to expire.
April 8 – Airbus, headquartered in the Netherlands
Airbus announces it will cut aircraft production by a third during 2020 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Production of A320 aircraft drops to 40 from 60 per month, while A350 and A330 output moves down to six and 24 from 10 and 40, respectively.
April 29 - Boeing, US
Boeing plans to reduce production of the 787 model to seven per month by 2022. This is down by half from its planned rate of production a year ago when it hit a record high of 14. The new output aim of seven is the second reduction from a revised output of 10, a response to the US-China trade tensions. The company is also cutting the number of 777/777X models produced to three from five in 2021, the company’s chief executive, Dave Calhoun, announced.
The spread of the Covid-19 virus is forcing shutdowns and a reassessment of consumers’ cobalt requirements.