Frank Santaguida 5.20


First Cobalt officials say they are “delighted” with the results of an independent study of their cobalt refinery in Ontario, Canada.

The results were released May 4. First Cobalt operates the Iron Creek cobalt project in Lemhi County. Its Canadian refinery was permitted in 1996 and operated intermittently until 2015.

“This is great news for our company,” First Cobalt Vice President of Exploration Frank Santaguida said in an email to the Messenger. “The feasibility study provides a road map for expanding our Ontario facility and adapting it to be North America’s first producer of cobalt sulfate.” Cobalt sulfate is an essential component in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles.

The feasibility study predicted the refinery could see annual production of 27,557 tons of battery-grade cobalt sulfate, which represents 5 percent of the total global refined cobalt market and 100 percent of the North American cobalt sulfate supply, Santaguida said.

“The study demonstrates that the First Cobalt Refinery can become a viable, globally competitive player in the North American and European electric vehicle supply chain,” he said. Today’s electric vehicle market is heavily dependent on supply from China, he pointed out, and as auto makers look to shorten supply chains in a post-COVID world, First Cobalt “is well positioned to play an important role in the rapidly evolving market.”

Nine days after sharing news about the feasibility study, First Cobalt officials announced a $2 million work program to advance the refinery plans. Plans call for completing that program within 90 days.

Permit amendments to expand the refinery will be prepared next and submitted to the appropriate regulatory agencies as part of the work plan. Efforts will also focus on assessing alternative approaches to manage the effluent sodium levels which would lower capital and operating costs. More metallurgical test work is planned in an effort to increase cobalt recoveries. Scoping studies to assess three early commissioning strategies to operate as a demonstration plant are also underway.

First Cobalt has partnered with Glencore on the refinery re-start effort.