Glencore held stocks of 12,797 tonnes of cobalt at the end of 2019

FILE PHOTO: The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Glencore’s Katanga operation in Africa held unsold stocks of 12,797 tonnes of battery material cobalt with a current market value of more than $400 million at the end of last year, statements from Katanga show.

Its cobalt stocks at the end of 2018 stood at 3,769 tonnes.

Toronto-listed Katanga Mining KAT.TO, mostly owned by London-listed Glencore GLEN.L produced 17,054 tonnes of cobalt contained in hydroxide last year and sold only 4,257 tonnes over the same period.

“These stocks have been hanging over the market and held down prices,” a cobalt trader said, adding that a lot of cobalt material destined for top consumer China was stuck in ports because people were in quarantine due to the coronavirus.

Glencore and Katanga declined to comment.

Sliding demand for cobalt from Chinese consumers in the electric vehicle battery supply chain saw prices on the London Metal Exchange CBD0 crash more than 70% to $26,000 a tonne between May 2018 and August 2019. They are now at $33,300 a tonne.

Katanga’s mining assets producing copper and byproduct cobalt are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Glencore’s Mutanda mine is also located.

Glencore shut Mutanda last year. It produced 25,000 tonnes of metal last year or about 20% of the global total and is expected to be under care and maintenance for two years.

The Swiss-based commodity trader is due to report its financial results next Tuesday.

Reporting by Pratima Desai; Editing by Edmund Blair