A Canadian mining company’s plan to open a processing plant outside Blackfoot is expected to bring dozens of jobs to eastern Idaho.
eCobalt Solutions Inc. plans to build the cobalt refining facility within two years; steel beams and other construction materials already have been brought to the construction site near Pioneer Road.
The building will support a mine near Salmon referred to by the company as “the only environmentally permitted, primary cobalt project located in the United States.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s top cobalt-producing nation, according to the oil and energy news website oilprice.com.
Blackfoot Mayor Paul Loomis said the refining facility is a strong addition to the region’s economic landscape.
“We’re absolutely thrilled about the announcement and for this opportunity to be able to work with this great company,” he said.
The facility is expected to employ 60 to 90 people, each paid in the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
Loomis said several factors went into eCobalt’s decision to locate the facility near Blackfoot, including its proximity to regional population centers such as Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
“They felt they’d be able to have a larger labor force to draw from,” he said. “We’re hoping a good number of employees will live here in Blackfoot, but we also realize the advantage of being able to draw from this larger pool.”
Blackfoot also already has water and sewer lines near the facility’s construction site, and there are nearby highways and railroads available for cobalt shipments. Raw ore will be consolidated near the Salmon mine, then trucked to the Bingham County facility, where it will be processed and then shipped via road and rail.
The project has been in the works since 2015, Loomis said.
Cobalt is used, in part, to make rechargeable batteries. The rise of electric cars has led to a corresponding rise in the price of cobalt as manufacturers scramble to buy the relatively scarce mineral, The Guardian reported.
With demand increasing, eCobalt officials felt it was time to move forward with their Idaho operations.
“This is a robust project that could eventually be the sole primary producer of cobalt in the United States,” CEO Paul Farquharson said in a news release. “Our project is an important development for the battery supply chain enabling access to a secure, stable, ethically sourced and environmentally sound supply of battery grade cobalt sulphate, mined safely and responsibly in the United States.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.