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Mineral Monday: Cobalt

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Imparting a rich, lustrous blue colour to glass, glazes and ceramics, Cobalt has been a much valued mineral as far back as the third millennium BC.

From the ruins of Pompeii to the sculptures of ancient Egypt Cobalt has found myriad uses throughout the ages and continues to find many industrial applications today.

Georg Brandt, a Swedish chemist, is credited with the discovery of Cobalt proper around 1735. The actual word Cobalt however, is derived from the German kobald, meaning ‘goblin’, a superstitious term used for the ore by miners.

Today, Cobalt finds its use primarily in the production of high performance alloys. Cobalt’s resistance to high temperatures means it has been used in the production of turbine blades for gas turbines and jet aircraft engines.

Cobalt also finds use in medical and dental settings as dental prosthetics and knee and hip replacements. Other uses include in batteries, as a catalyst in the production of hydrogen, and as a pigment.

Where is it produced / mined?

The majority of Cobalt is obtained not by the active mining of cobalt ores, but rather by reducing cobalt compounds that occur as by-products of nickel and copper mining activities.
As of 2014, the biggest producer of Cobalt was the Democratic Republic of Congo (56,000 MT). Other major global producers of Cobalt include China (7,200 MT), Canada (7,000 MT), Australia (6,500 MT), and Russia (6,300 MT).

Did you know?

  • Cobalt is an essential trace nutrient for health. It makes up the backbone of vitamin B12, which is key to blood formation and functioning of the nervous system.

  • As in ancient times, Cobalt is still used in the production of pigments. Approximately 30 percent of Cobalt produced annually goes to the ceramic and paint industries.

  • Cobalt and its compounds are considered to be slightly toxic by skin contact and moderately toxic by ingestion.

  • Cobalt is not found as a free element in nature. It is found in mineral ores including cobaltite, erythrite, glaucodot and skutterudite.

Cobalt. A versatile mineral that has had, and continues to have, a number of beneficial uses for humanity.
Mineral Monday: Cobalt - Time to read 2 min
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