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Cobalt processor pleased with material tests

First Cobalt ‘confident’ northeastern Ontario refinery can supply North American battery market
Cobalt refinery

The company aiming to restore a northeastern Ontario cobalt refinery to commercial production is pleased with the results from its material testing.

First Cobalt provided preliminary results from a testing program of cobalt hydroxide material as potential feedstock for its refinery near the town of Cobalt.

Among the highlights, the company reported Jan.30 was that testing successfully leached 98 per cent of cobalt from the cobalt hydroxide using solvent extraction processes.

The Toronto-based company has hired SGS Canada to assist them. The testing is being done at SGS's Lakefield, Ont. facility.

Back in November, they began testing cobalt hydroxide material to determine whether they could produce a finished cobalt sulphate product for the lithium-ion battery market or cobalt metal that can used in the aerospace sector.

The company said at the time it was looking to source cobalt hydroxide from global producers to feed the refinery.

“Today’s results give us further confidence that the First Cobalt Refinery flowsheet can produce cobalt to supply the North American market,” said company president-CEO Trent Mell in a statement.

“Having achieved this milestone, we are driving ahead with the next phase of testing including the production of cobalt sulphate, which we expect to have completed before the end of the quarter.

“The lower price of cobalt hydroxide on the market today points to increased margin potential through upgrading readily available supply of cobalt intermediates.”

The refinery is located five kilometres east of the Town of Cobalt. It is the only permitted refinery in North America capable of extracting cobalt to produce battery-grade material.

The company has about 11,700 hectares of exploration property in the Cobalt area, but its main focus is its Iron Creek cobalt project in Idaho.

First Cobalt acquired the refinery in 2017 and intends to use as a toll processing facility to process outside cobalt material.

Mell stated they’re on the hunt for capital to finance the recommissioning of the refinery, which would generate cash to fund their future work in the U.S.

The mill is a three-circuit hydro-metallurgical cobalt-silver-nickel refinery that was commissioned in 1996. Before being mothballed in 2015, it produced a cobalt carbonate, a nickel carbonate and silver doré.