(Bloomberg) -- Supplies of lithium and other minerals used in rechargeable batteries are highly concentrated in just a few countries, leaving the raw materials vulnerable to disruption as a boom in electric cars bolsters demand, according to the United Nations.
Nearly 50% of world cobalt reserves are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 58% of lithium reserves are in Chile, and 80% of natural graphite is in China, Brazil and Turkey, according to a report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The possibility of political instability and adverse environmental impacts in these countries raises concerns about the security of the supply, posing a risk of tighter markets, higher prices and increased battery costs at a time when low-carbon energy sources are needed to help fight climate change, the UN said. While investing more in green technologies that depend less on critical battery raw materials could help reduce consumers’ vulnerability to supply shortfalls, this would cut the revenues of the nations producing them.
“The rise in demand for the strategic raw materials used to manufacture electric batteries will open more trade opportunities for the countries that supply these materials,” Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s director of international trade, said in a statement. “It’s important for these countries to develop their capacity to move up the value chain.”
The rechargeable battery market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of about 7% during 2019-2024. The market in cathode for lithium ion batteries, the most common rechargeable car battery, is expected to jump to $58.8 billion by 2024 from $7 billion in 2018, according to the report.
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