Cobalt firms on DRC ore uncertainty, tight supply
* High grade cobalt at $12.50-13.50/lb this week
* Uncertainty surrounds DR Congo ore ban plans
* Producers tight after selling-out of material
By Harpreet Bhal
LONDON, May 3 (Reuters) - Uncertainty about the availability of cobalt concentrates from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the world's largest ore producer, is pushing up prices for the metal at a time the market is already tight due to low supplies, traders said.
The price of high grade cobalt has risen steadily since the beginning of the year after hitting a 9-year low of $10 a pound in November and now stands at around $13.50/lb, up 30 percent from the lows and higher than $12/lb in March. .
Traders said the market was already tight, as producers were running low on stocks, when it emerged that the DRC planned to ban the export of raw materials of the metal used in batteries and in alloys for jet engines and gas turbines.
The African country in mid April banned exports of copper and cobalt concentrates to encourage miners to process and refine the red metal within its borders, according to an order from the Mines Ministry.
The order, seen by Reuters and dated April 5, provides companies 90 days to clear stocks before the ban is enforced, but a day later the governor of Katanga, Congo's sole copper and cobalt mining province, said he would not enforce a new ban. Continued...