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First Cobalt powers up refinery

Engineers do systems check in advance of feasibility study release
First Cobalt (Yukon) refinery
First Cobalt refinery outside the town of Cobalt (First Cobalt photo)

Power has been restored to a cobalt refinery outside the town of Cobalt.

Toronto’s First Cobalt is running a feasibility study to determine whether to put the facility back into production.

In an Oct.10 release, the company said a team of 12 engineers and technicians are in the building, inspecting and testing all of the equipment and systems to ensure it’s in proper working order.

The feasibility study is due out sometime early next year.

Located five kilometres east of the town of Cobalt in northeastern Ontario, it is the only permitted cobalt refinery in North America.

First Cobalt acquired the hydrometallurgical cobalt facility in 2017 after it had been shuttered and on care and maintenance since 2015. The refinery was first commissioned in 1996.

The company is contemplating recommissioning the refinery at a rate of 12 tonnes per day next year and then expanding it to 55 tonnes per day in 2021.

The cost to restore it to operation is estimated at US$37.5 million.

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First Cobalt wants to produce battery-grade material – cobalt sulfate – used in the electric vehicle battery industry.

Since there is no cobalt sulfate production in North America, the company wants to establish the refinery as a toll milling operation for mining companies. They’re still working on finalizing a feed agreement with Glencore.

If the refinery produces 5,000 tonnes annually of refined cobalt sulfate that would represent five per cent of the global market, the company said.

First Cobalt has more than 100 square kilometres of nearby exploration properties nearby in northeastern Ontario and cobalt exploration play in Idaho.

Company vice-president Peter Campbell said a news release that the refinery has been kept in good shape since it was first commissioned in 1996.

“This field program will provide greater confidence on the key components required to recommission the facility, which has been on care and maintenance since 2015. Findings from this field program will be incorporated into an ongoing definitive feasibility study that remains on schedule for completion in the first quarter of 2020.”