Cobalt is in the C Basket.
When Sir Robert Walpole, Britain‘s first Prime Minister, took up office, he could not have foreseen that the address would be a synonym for the British government even today: 10 Downing Street. It is the 22nd September 1735 – a year which is also of enormous importance for the global raw material trade. In the Swedish capital Stockholm, the chemist George Brand was able to discover and name a new element, which is still considered very rare: Cobalt, which is mainly extracted from copper or nickel ores. The name derives from Goblin (Kobold), the house spirit that tends to annoy people. According to prehistoric tales, Goblins often devoured silver at first and then excreted silver ores that were completely worthless.
But there is no divided opinion on the value of the raw material, Cobalt steel is one of the hardest alloys and used, inter alia, for drill bits and milling. But it is also used for highly stressed parts in mechanical engineering, for example in propellers or aircraft turbines. Its potential use as an alloying element and cobalt compounds has made the raw material to become a strategically very important metal. It is needed in some catalysts as well as Li-ion batteries; it serves also as a pigment in the colouring of porcelain or ceramic.
Nowhere in the world is so much cobalt produced than in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which already covers 40 percent of the world market with its yield of 25,000 tonnes. When it comes to the refineries on the other hand, China is far ahead – supplies 18,200 tonnes, covering over 31 percent of demand. Thus, the element has had a much more successful career than Sir Robert Walpole, who had to step down from power after a failed vote in 1742 and leave “10 Downing Street“ for his successor.