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SNAFFLED METAL

Thieves made off with $10 million worth of cobalt in a warehouse heist

Reuters/Kenny Katombe
The precious commodity.
  • Edmund Heaphy
By Edmund Heaphy

Contributing writer

This article is more than 2 years old.

Around 112 metric tons of cobalt—worth around $10 million—were stolen from a warehouse in the Netherlands this month.

Drums of the scarce metal were taken from a secure area of a Vollers warehouse in Rotterdam, MetalBulletin reports. The theft was first noted this week by the UK-based Minor Metals Trade Association, which told Bloomberg that the company was working with Dutch police to solve the crime.

Cobalt is a key component of lithium-ion batteries, and the battery industry uses more than 40% of the world’s cobalt supply. The price of cobalt has risen more than 100% since 2016, mainly thanks to the surge in demand from electric carmakers.

Just yesterday (July 19), Panasonic—which supplies Tesla with the batteries for its vehicles—was forced to suspend its relationship with a Canadian cobalt supplier, after it emerged that some of the cobalt used in production came from Cuba, a country subject to US trade sanctions.

Tesla has been working for years to reduce its dependence on cobalt. Most of the global supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a long history of human-rights violations.

New research has made it possible to use materials like manganese and iron (paywall) in place of cobalt in some types of batteries.

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