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Morocco wants to increase its cobalt production for the manufacture of rechargeable batteries

The Alawi kingdom, as a result of the pandemic, has begun a process of transition to renewable energies
Pozo abierto en una mina de cobre y cobalto REUTERS/JONNY HOGG

REUTERS/JONNY HOGG  -   Pozo abierto en una mina de cobre y cobalto REUTERS/JONNY HOGG

"Morocco plans to exploit its cobalt reserves as a component used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries," a senior official at the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) told Reuters news agency. Abdellah Mouttaqui, secretary general of the ONHYM agency, noted that "Morocco ranks eleventh in terms of reserves, and last year ranked ninth as a producer of 1,900 tonnes of the mineral". 

Moroccan-based mining company Managem announced last month a partnership with Anglo-Swiss company Glencore for the development of a refining project at the Bou Azzer mine near Marrakech. ONHYM is in charge of prospecting, before mining concessions are granted to private investors, while the office "is exploring other cobalt reserves in the Siroua region with the Moroccan mining company Managem," said Mouttaqui. 

Sulfato de cobalto reciclado  PHOTO/REUTERS
Recycled cobalt sulphate PHOTO/REUTERS

Morocco has large deposits of cobalt, fluorine and phosphate, essential materials for the production of any kind of electrical product. The Kingdom is also in an ecological transition, where they are developing a more energetic industry, thus favouring greater economic growth, but, above all, creating a sustainable country capable of combating the greenhouse effect and harmful gas emissions. 

Cobalt is a key mineral for the aforementioned ecological transition, as it is an essential material in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for laptops, telephones, lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, etc., as well as for use in medical equipment. In addition to the Alawi kingdom, nations such as South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo have significant cobalt reserves. Minerals such as nickel and copper are also key components in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.
 

Mineral de cobre-cobalto  PHOTO/REUTERS
Copper-cobalt ore PHOTO/REUTERS

As can be guessed, the North African country wants to be a pioneer in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles, which is why it is preparing the installation of its first automotive factory in the Casablanca region dedicated to the manufacture of this product, thus becoming one of the few countries capable of manufacturing them. In this way, the nation continues to grow in the automotive sector, in 2017, it became the first country on the African continent dedicated to the manufacture of cars, and in 2021, the Kingdom positioned itself as the second country exporting the product to European countries. Asian countries are the leaders in the global manufacture of electric vehicles.

Baterías de coche en una fábrica de Xinwangda Electric Vehicle Battery Co. Ltd, que fabrica baterías de litio para coches eléctricos y otros usos, en Nanjing, en la provincia oriental china de Jiangsu PHOTO/AFP
Car batteries at a factory of Xinwangda Electric Vehicle Battery Co. Ltd, which manufactures lithium batteries for electric cars and other uses, in Nanjing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. PHOTO/AFP

Currently, the world's largest producer of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo, but this country violates human rights when extracting the mineral because it employs minors as labour. In view of this, different companies, manufacturers, etc. are looking for new countries capable of guaranteeing supplies of the mineral, and Morocco has emerged as the leading cobalt exporting country. 

In the long term, the Alawi kingdom wants to increase its cobalt production. In recent years, demand for cobalt has been on the rise due to the increase, and this demand will continue to increase over the years, as a result of the growth of the electric vehicle market. According to Mouttaqui, most of the world's mined cobalt is used as a by-product for copper or nickel production, with the exception of Morocco, where the Bou Azzer ore is characterised by its high purity, making it a more valuable mineral.