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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Sibley, Scott F.
Cobalt,   pp. 249-258 PDF (1.2 MB)


Page 249

  249Cobalt 
By Scott F. Sibley1 
 Demand for cobalt in 1978 increased significantly compared with that of
1977. Total reported consumption of cobalt in the United States was the highest~
on record, at 19,994,000 pounds, and reflected a 21% increase over consumption
reported for 1977. In 1979, reported consumption declined 13% compared with
that of 1978. 
 Considerable uncertainty developed in the cobalt market with regard to future
supply and price in May 1978, when African Metals Corp., the major dealer
for cobalt in 
the United States, announced that cobalt metal orders would be accepted only
on an allocation basis, beginning May 1, 1978. The allocation, still in effect
at yearend 1979, was based on 70% of consumers' average monthly purchases
during calendar year 1977. The uncertainty was heightened in mid-May 1978
when insurgents disrupted mining activity in Shaba Province, Zaire, the major
source of the U.S. supply of cobalt. Prices soared during the last half of
1978 and stabilized in 1979. 
Table 1.—Salient cobalt statistics (Thousand pounds of contained
cobalt)
1975 
1976 
1977 
1978 
1979 
United States: 
Consumption                      
Imports for consumption              
Stocks, Dec. 31: Consumer             
Price: Metal, per pound               
world production, mine'                
12,787 
6,608 
1,801 
$3.75-$4.00 
T47,60() 
16,482 
16,487 
3,180 
$4.00-$5.40 r47218 
16,577 
17,548 
3,738 
$5.20-$6.40 
r48,168 
19,994 
19,029 
4,387 
$640420.00 
55,662 
17,402 
19,998 
3,390 
$20.00-$25.00 
62,874 
' Based on estimated recovered cobalt. 
 Legislation and Government Programs.—An export reporting system
for
cobalt-bearing materials was established by the U.S. Department of Commerce
on January 10, 1979. The Department required that exporters send to the Office
of Export Administration a copy of the export declaration covering a list
of specified materials (both wrought and unwrought) containing 10% or more
of cobalt. 
 The national stockpile goal for cobalt remained at 85.4 million pounds,
and the inventory in storage was 40.8 million pounds at yearend 1979. 
 Congress passed legislation in mid-1979 regarding sales and purchases of
critical commodities in the national stockpile. 
The new Strategic and Critical Materials Stockpiling Revision Act opened
the way for further legislation providing for sales and purchases of specific
commodities. The act requires that funds from sales of stockpiled commodities
be used to purchase commodities for which there is a stockpile deficit. If
such purchases are not made, the funds are to revert to the Treasury after
3 years. The act also specifies that the stockpile must serve the interest
of national defense only. 
 In November 1979, the Senate passed legislation that would restrict access
to a region of cobalt mineralization northeast of the Blackbird district
in Idaho. The legislation would create a "River-of-No-ReturnWilderness,"
a small part of which would 


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