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.