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Review

Environmental Sustainability and Supply Resilience of Cobalt

1
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK
2
Metals Regulation Limited, 4 Water Lane, Totton, Hampshire, Southampton SO40 3DP, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Rajesh Kumar Jyothi and Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2022, 14(7), 4124; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074124
Received: 14 December 2021 / Revised: 21 March 2022 / Accepted: 24 March 2022 / Published: 30 March 2022
Cobalt (Co) is an essential metal for the development of energy-transition technologies, decarbonising transportation, achieving several sustainable development goals, and facilitating a future net zero transition. However, the supply of Co is prone to severe fluctuation, disruption, and price instabilities. This review aims to identify the future evolution of Co supply through technologically resilient and environmentally sustainable pathways. The work shows that advances in both primary and secondary sources, Co mining methods and recycling systems are yet to be fully optimised. Moreover, responsible sourcing from both large mines and small artisanal mines will be necessary for a resilient Co supply. Regulatory approaches may increase transparency, support local mining communities, and improve secondary Co recovery. Novel Co supply options, such as deep-sea mining and bio-mining of tailings, are associated with major techno-economic and environmental issues. However, a circular economy, keeping Co in the economic loop for as long as possible, is yet to be optimised at both regional and global scales. To achieve environmental sustainability of Co, economic incentives, regulatory push, and improved public perception are required to drive product innovation and design for circularity. Although the complexity of Co recycling, due to lack of standardisation of design and chemistry in batteries, is an impediment, a sustainable net zero transition using Co will only be possible if a reliable primary supply and a circular secondary supply are established. View Full-Text
Keywords: cobalt; resource sustainability; circular economy; electric vehicles; rechargeable batteries cobalt; resource sustainability; circular economy; electric vehicles; rechargeable batteries
MDPI and ACS Style

Earl, C.; Shah, I.H.; Cook, S.; Cheeseman, C.R. Environmental Sustainability and Supply Resilience of Cobalt. Sustainability 2022, 14, 4124. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074124

AMA Style

Earl C, Shah IH, Cook S, Cheeseman CR. Environmental Sustainability and Supply Resilience of Cobalt. Sustainability. 2022; 14(7):4124. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074124

Chicago/Turabian Style

Earl, Cathryn, Izhar Hussain Shah, Simon Cook, and Christopher Robert Cheeseman. 2022. "Environmental Sustainability and Supply Resilience of Cobalt" Sustainability 14, no. 7: 4124. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074124

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