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Mon Nov 23, 2020, 09:42 PM

This should go a long way to ending modern day human slavery to mine cobalt in the Congo region.

As most people don't know, and, indeed it is a subject about which most people don't want to know, and a subject about which they couldn't care less, most "lithium" batteries contain cobalt in their anodes. Cobalt is a "conflict metal," whether or not electronics companies have saturated the internet with claims that each of them mine it "responsibly."

Cobalt is monoisotopic. There is very little about it that makes it possible to define its source, and most of the "responsible sourcing" bullshit is just that, bullshit.

A great deal of effort has gone into removing cobalt from lithium batteries, for marketing reasons, with the result that most lithium batteries still contain cobalt. As of now, nothing works as well, not that people have stopped trying to do away with it, because it makes bleeding hearts like me want to cry.

I just came across this paper: Recent Advances in Titanium Niobium Oxide Anodes for High-Power Lithium-Ion Batteries (Tao Yuan, Luke Soule, Bote Zhao, Jie Zou, Junhe Yang, Meilin Liu, and Shiyou Zheng Energy & Fuels 2020 34 (11), 13321-13334.)

Tantalum is yet another conflict metal, essential to making cell phones and similar devices.

Niobium (also monoisotopic) is tantalum's congener, and tantalum is an impurity in niobium ores.

Sigh...

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Reply This should go a long way to ending modern day human slavery to mine cobalt in the Congo region. (Original post)
NNadir Nov 2020 OP
eppur_se_muova Nov 2020 #1
NNadir Nov 2020 #3
cstanleytech Nov 2020 #2
NNadir Nov 2020 #4

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Nov 24, 2020, 12:36 AM

1. Wow, Wikipedia article on niobium really needs to be updated. No mention of DCR.

I've been trying to find more info on the Niobay James Bay Niobium Project in Canada -- looks like there's only a little tantalum in their Crevier property (~6000 tons *total* over the whole deposit) and it's not clear if it will be separated or lost in the ferroniobium. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/06/26/1874497/0/en/Niobay-Metals-Initiates-Metallurgical-Test-Work-at-Its-Crevier-Project.html The James Bay project is about 2.5x larger; if it's similarly rich in tantalum maybe that would have a significant impact on DCR ore smuggling.

Unfortunately, none of this likely to happen before 2026 ...

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 24, 2020, 08:41 AM

3. About 60% of the world cobalt is supplied by the DRC. Here's a recent news article on the subject:

Top tech firms sued over DR Congo cobalt mining deaths

From the Council on Foreign Affairs: Why Cobalt Mining in the DRC Needs Urgent Attention

Of course, as you might well imagine, in recent years all of the major tech companies have put up websites saying that they ethically mine cobalt and/or don't get any from Africa...blah...blah...blah...

Still, slaves dig it there. Someone's using it, and no, HR-ICP/MS is not going to give a signature for a monoisotopic element.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Nov 24, 2020, 01:06 AM

2. So what potential alternatives are in the works that are showing the best promise to

remove the use of rare and or hazardous material?

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Response to cstanleytech (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 24, 2020, 12:39 PM

4. If one types "cobalt free" and "electrode" in Google scholar

...one will get over 3000 hits, 555 of which were published this year., most written this decade.

To my knowledge, none of these papers represents commercialized technology that has an impact on cobalt demand.

I tend not to read papers about how to make lithium (or sodium or potassium) batteries more wonderful, since I think more environmentally and morally responsible to limit the use of batteries to a minimum. It's clear we can justify having some, but proposals for electric cars and grid scale batteries just make me sick.

I'd rather read about things that would make the world better and not those that are in the process of making it worse.

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