Cobalt blues? Not over the long haul

Every once in a while, we try to inject a little science into this blog.

You know Cobalt? Artists have a colour they call Cobalt Blue, because Cobalt is an ancient ingredient in some pigments.

Cobalt may just be the new copper. Or aluminum. Or steel. Possessing neither the glamour of precious metals like gold nor the industrial muscle of iron, this silver-white by-product of copper or nickel mining has always been considered a minor element on the world trading markets.

But cobalt is suddenly in vogue, thanks to surging demand for products that contain it. Known since at least 2000 B.C. as a coloring agent that produces a rich blue hue to glass, the metal now is an integral part of orthopedic implants, rechargeable batteries for hybrid cars and cameras, and aircraft engines and armor systems.

Mining companies are responding by stepping up production. Canada’s Inco will develop a nickel-cobalt mine in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, while U.S. copper giant Phelps Dodge just acquired a controlling stake in a vast copper-cobalt deposit in Democratic Congo.

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