Agnico Eagle is reviewing cobalt assets after receiving interest

(Bloomberg) — Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. is dusting off cobalt assets in Ontario for potential sale as a global search for the rechargeable-battery ingredient expands amid surging demand.

The gold producer is doing an analysis of its Canadian cobalt holdings after receiving five or six inquiries, Chief Executive Officer Sean Boyd said Monday in a Bloomberg TV interview at the annual BMO mining conference in Florida.

The move comes at a time when manufacturers are seeking to secure cobalt on behalf of battery makers as demand heats up from the electric-vehicle and mobile-phone industries.

That may paint a brighter future for the sleepy town of Cobalt, which lies 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Toronto, as companies such as Apple Inc. look into multi-year contracts with suppliers to obtain the metal. Agnico’s land holdings in the area last produced minerals in 1988.

Agnico would be open to a deal with a “specialty player,” in which it retained a royalty “in case someone gets really lucky,” Boyd said. “How much value is there? It’s hard to say. We’re doing an analysis now but we’re certainly open to work with those players that have that specialty.”

In the interim, the company is still focused on its core business of building and running gold mines. It hasn’t considered merging with rivals such as Goldcorp Inc., to better compete with industry heavyweights Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp., Boyd said.

“We’re not looking at big M&A at all,” Boyd said. “The best strategy for us” is to “identity things early stage and build them.”

(Written by Danielle Bochove and Susanne Barton)