Skip to content

Cobalt refinery upgrade project lands $10 million in government cash

First Cobalt expanding Yukon refinery to corner the North American market on cobalt processing
Refinery 2_Aerial

The company that's pumping new life into a once-dormant northeastern Ontario mineral processing refinery received a $10-million funding injection from Ottawa and Queen's Park.

Toronto's First Cobalt made the announcement on Dec. 16, adding that this funding will accelerate the commissioning and expansion of its refinery, a $77-million upgrading project, located just outside the town of Cobalt.

The company has a huge 10,000-hectare parcel of nearby exploration property containing cobalt and silver, and more than 50 former mines, but they have eyes on bringing the former Yukon refinery into production as a global toll processing operation. It would produce battery-grade material for the North American electric vehicle industry.

The Government of Canada is providing a $5-million interest-free loan through FedNor.

The Government of Ontario is delivering a $5-million non-repayable grant through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.

Want to read more stories about business in the North? Subscribe to our newsletter.

As the only North American refiner of cobalt, expected to come on stream within two years, the facility will have nameplate capacity to produce 25,000 tonnes of battery-grade cobalt sulfate annually, roughly five per cent of the global market for refined cobalt.

Much of the plant's financing will come from customer off-take agreements.

The refinery will convert cobalt hydroxide into a highly pure, battery-grade cobalt sulfate material used by manufacturers of these electric vehicle batteries.

According to the company's timetable, construction will start in the second quarter of 2021 to boost production capacity at the plant to 55 tonnes a day, roughly five per cent of the world's cobalt refinery capacity. The plant's commissioning is slated for 2022.

"This funding sends a strong signal to investors that our plan is credible, achievable, and realistic," said First Cobalt chairman John Pollesel in a statement.

"Looking ahead, the enhanced credibility this funding brings will help attract investment partners to this critical project.

"The electric vehicle revolution is powered by cobalt and we are thrilled to partner with the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario to expand and recommission our Northern Ontario Refinery, bringing long-term employment to the community," added company president Trent Mell.