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BUSINESS & TECH

Electric-Vehicle Craze Drives Rush for Congo Cobalt

A woman pans for cobalt in May 2015 near a mine in the Congo. Photo: VCG
A woman pans for cobalt in May 2015 near a mine in the Congo. Photo: VCG

Zhang Fan, an investment manager for a private Chinese metals company, set foot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the first time in late 2016. But he and his team have been back three times since, tasked with one mission — procuring cobalt.

Over the past two years, dozens of private Chinese companies have ramped up investment in the central African country, where more than 60% of the world’s raw cobalt ore is produced.

China’s domestic policy support for new-energy vehicles is driving demand for the silver-gray metal, a key component in the lithium-ion batteries that power electronic devices and electric cars.

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