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Key minerals for the changing energy system

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Cobalt prices (thousands of $ per tonne*)                      
Cobalt prices (thousands of $ per tonne)
* 2000-2012 spot grade for cathodes, source US Geological Survey. Data from 2013 onwards: min purity 99.8%, source London Metal Exchange.
Lithium carbonate prices (thousands of $ per tonne†)
Lithium carbonate prices (thousands of $ per tonne†)
†2000-2008 unit value, data series 140, source US Geological Survey. Data from 2009 onwards: FOB South America, source Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

After steep rises in prices for cobalt and lithium in 2017 and 2018, prices fell back sharply last year. Cobalt prices declined by over 50% while lithium carbonate prices slipped 31%. Production responded quickly to the drop-in prices, with cobalt production down 21.2%, largely due to a decline in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lithium production fell 19.2%, driven mainly by lower Australian output.


Production of graphite and rare earth metals continued to ramp up, both growing around 12%. Graphite growth was driven largely by China and Mozambique, while rare earth output was lifted by China and the US, which increased output by 44%, leapfrogging Australia to become the world’s number two producer behind China.