Businesses don’t quadruple their shares in three years, unless they’re Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, now worth more than Nippon Steel, the world’s third-largest steelmaker. Its products are cobalt and nickel, whose prices have been skyrocketing in recent years as they are needed for batteries in electric vehicles.
The problems with cobalt and nickel are well-publicized. About 70 percent of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where about a fifth of output comes from small-scale mines that use child labour to dig ore in unhealthy conditions. Indonesia has ores with both these metals – and in just the right proportions – but the ores are so low-grade that no one has been able to extract them at a profit. Huayou wants to change that, raising three-quarters of a billion US dollars for project development to get the ores.
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