Morocco produced 1900 tonnes of cobalt in 2021. This made it ninth in the world. This strategic metal is increasingly in demand on the world market as it is used in manufacture of rechargeable batteries essential to the operation of telephones, the automotive industry and renewable energy.
Global demand for cobalt has grown exponentially in recent years and is expected to reach 60% by 2025. This indispensable mineral has seen its use increase in the automotive industry, in new technologies and in the renewable energy sector. Thus, Morocco, which has a large reserve of this metal, aims to further exploit its reserves as part of the rechargeable battery supply chain.
In this sense, Abdellah Mouttaqui, Secretary General of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM), told the Reuters news agency that Morocco was making efforts to increase its cobalt production. Currently, the country ranks ninth in the world, with production of 1,900 tonnes in 2021, and is ranked eleventh in terms of reserves.
The particularity of Moroccan cobalt lies in its high purity, especially in the ore mine, according to the Secretary General of ONHYM. In fact, located in the Precambrian lands of the Anti-Atlas in Morocco, the Bou Azzer mine is the only known primary cobalt deposit in the world, exploiting exclusively cobalt ore (in the form of smaltite “CoAs2”). This specificity makes Morocco a remarkable exploration area on an international scale.
In addition, apart from the Alawite Kingdom, the DRC is the world’s largest supplier of cobalt (100,000 tonnes in 2019). Secondly, in South Africa, cobalt is a co-product of precious metals mining.
The Alawite kingdom’s long-term ambitions
In addition to cobalt, Morocco has large deposits of fluorine and phosphate, all of which are essential materials for the production of any type of electrical product.
As you might expect, the North African country wants to be a leader in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles. Indeed, the country is preparing to install its first automobile factory in the Casablanca region dedicated to the manufacture of this mineral in order to become one of the few countries capable of manufacturing them.
In 2017, to maintain its position in the automotive sector, the Alawite Kingdom became the first country on the African continent dedicated to car manufacturing. By 2021, the country has positioned itself as the second largest exporter of cobalt to European countries. Asian countries are leaders in the global manufacture of electric vehicles. Minerals such as nickel and copper are also key components in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries.
At the end of January 2022, the Moroccan mining company Managem and the Anglo-Swiss company Glencore signed a strategic partnership for the development of a refining project at the Bou Azzer mine, near Marrakech. This five-year partnership supports the electromobility sector in meeting its metal recycling targets. ONHYM is in charge of prospecting, prior to the granting of mining concessions to private investors, while the office is “exploring other cobalt reserves in the Siroua region with the Moroccan mining company Managem,” said Mouttaqui.