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Buying an EV? Sweden's plan to mine cobalt could make your purchase easier

Price of the mineral, a key input in electric vehicles, has tripled the past 2 years. Sweden seeks to pare global dependence on leading supplier Congo


Govt depts in race to take credit for EVs
Electric vehicle

will step up efforts to find minerals such as and lithium, key battery components that are increasingly in demand among makers of

The government will invest 10 million kronor ($1.26 million) over the next two years to map the existence of minerals deemed important for future growth. While has a history of mining for base metals, the Geological Survey of Sweden, a government agency, believes there’s potential for expanding the output of more uncommon minerals like tungsten and rare earths.

has unique assets in its bedrock,” Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “Historically we have mainly explored minerals such as copper, iron, and But the shift to green technologies means there’s an increased need for other minerals.”

The plan is part of a global push to safeguard the supply of critical metals and reduce the world’s dependence on the for The conflict-ridden African country currently produces the vast majority of cobalt, often in small mining operations where injuries and child labour are common.

The price of cobalt, a key component in the manufacture of electric vehicles, has more than tripled since the start of 2016.

If each of the one billion cars currently on the road were to be replaced with a Model X, demand for would equal 14 million tonnes -- twice the size of the current global reserves, according to a study by commodity analysts CRU Group. Even a more realistic scenario of 30 million electric cars by 2030 would require output to be more than trebled from its current levels.

As manufacturers position themselves for a post-fossil fuel world, Sweden’s recently made global headlines with plans to make all of its new models electric from 2019.

In addition to the government-funded initiative, has also seen a rise in private investment in the exploration of minerals used in batteries. One is Australia’s Talga Resources, which runs exploration activities aiming to extract and graphite in northern In a recent update, it said base metal deposits in have “significant potential” as a future supply of for batteries.

The Geological Survey of (SGU) has a collection of 18,000 core samples, some of them dating back to 1858, that can be analyzed for traces of materials that have previously been overlooked. It will also look at waste material from existing base metals mines.

Though has some known reserves of and cobalt, their extraction has so far not proved to be cost effective. SGU experts believe that could change.

“Of course, countries like and have huge geological potential, and is not in the same league,” said Anders Hallberg, a geologist at SGU. “It’s not only about geology, though. We have active mining operations, which means that we have knowledge and research capabilities.”

First Published: Fri, February 16 2018. 12:34 IST