Natural Sources of Cobalt Compounds

There are many natural sources of cobalt compounds, and these are mined extensively for a wide range of uses in today’s medical and industrial sectors. Cobalt, unlike gold, platinum and silver, is never found in its elemental metallic form since it is reasonably reactive.

Cobalt itself is not a particularly rare metal (ranked 33 of all metals for abundance) and can be found distributed widely not only on land, but also underwater in the Earth’s crust. Consequently, it is often found in compounds with other metals mineralized in the ground. The most common minerals from which cobalt can be profitably extracted are called Cobaltite and Erythrite.

Cobaltite is a mineral found abundantly in Australia, Canada, Russia and Norway. It consists of cobalt, arsenic and sulphur, but may also contain traces of iron and nickel. Cobaltite is typically found deep in the ground, and hence must be mined to a distance of approximately fifty metres underground. Whilst superficially remote, this position is very favourable considering arsenic is a very poisonous element which must be handled carefully and cautiously.

The other main mineral of cobalt is Erythrite, which is a cobalt compound containing high concentrations of cobalt, arsenic and nickel. Erythrite is a very soft flaky mineral, which can be very easily extracted from the ground, or in sea hillocks. Erythrite itself is an attractive mineral, with a deep crimson or pink colouring and this is how it has been named since the Greek word erythros, means red. Erythrite is located primarily in Germany, Morocco and Australia.

Small traces of cobalt are found in the human body due to the consumption of vegetables and meat dishes. Cobalt is an important component in the vitamin B12, which is required for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. It is interesting to note that no plant or animal (humans included) can actually synthesize vitamin B12. Instead, all organisms obtain this important vitamin from bacteria or algae which can synthesize it from cobalt and nitrogen.

In conclusion, Cobalt is an important element which is used extensively in the chemical and electronic industry for the construction of batteries, adhesives, soaps; and also plays an important role in the medicinal field with Cobalt-60 being a source of radiation in radiotherapy. By considering the widespread use and importance of Cobalt in today’s digital age, we can more fully understand how the mining of natural sources of cobalt is of vital significance in today’s society.

In the future, other natural sources of cobalt compounds will definitely be required to alleviate the ever increasing demand for this abundant yet undoubtedly precious metal.