The recent discovery of a massive trove of rare earth elements off the coast of Japan may bring relief to fears of shortages of the key elements used in an array of technological devices, including cellphones, cars and defense systems.
But rare earths are just some of the elements increasingly sought after as more of the world becomes increasingly flush with technology.
For example, the once little-known element cobalt is rapidly rising in price, and some warn shortages could hit the metal in the future.
The proliferation of lithium-ion batteries, of which cobalt is a key ingredient, in electronics and electrified vehicles is the chief factor fueling this rise in price and concerns among companies over the security of their supplies.
Prices for the metal more than doubled in 2017 over the previous year, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Some companies have responded to the jump by looking for ways to secure stocks for their own supply chains. Apple is reportedly trying to procure its cobalt directly from miners. Automakers such as BMW and Volkswagen have also reportedly been taking similar steps.
Demand for cobalt in vehicle battery materials is expected to grow more than 40 percent in 2018, according to U.K.-based cobalt trading firm Darton Commodities. Electric and hybrid vehicle adoption in China and Europe are projected to be significant contributors, and the production ramp of the Tesla Model 3 is expected to be the major driver of EV adoption in the U.S., Darton said in its annual Cobalt Market Review report published in February.