Emerging Technologies

The price of this element has surged in 2017

An miner carries raw ore at a former industrial copper-cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Image: REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

Charlotte Beale
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Emerging Technologies

Cobalt is a critical element in lithium-ion batteries, which power smartphones and electric vehicles. As demand for such technology increases, the price of cobalt has soared, more than doubling this year alone. The value of the cobalt market reached $8 billion in 2016, according to Bloomberg.

Image: Quartz

Global sales of electric vehicles rose 63% in 2017, with more than one million estimated to have been sold. Accordingly, demand for lithium-ion batteries is projected to increase by up to seven times over the next decade. The values of other elements used in batteries, including lithium and nickel, are also increasing, while the Bloomberg Commodity Index as a whole has fallen by 4% in 2017.

However, two-thirds of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country’s unstable politics and use of child labour invite scrutiny into the ethics of the element powering our technology-driven lifestyles. Cobalt buyers are already seeking alternate sources, including in Russia, Canada and Australia. Because as transport turns green, demand for cobalt is only going in one direction.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesFuture of the Environment
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to build the skills needed for the age of AI

Juliana Guaqueta Ospina

April 11, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum