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Capstone could become world’s fourth-largest cobalt producer

The Santo Domingo project is located 50 km southwest of Codelco’s El Salvador copper mine. (Image courtesy of Capstone Mining.)

Canada’s Capstone Mining (TSX:CS) has found that its Santo Domingo copper-iron-gold joint venture project in Chile has the potential to produce battery-grade cobalt sulphate at a large-scale and low-cost.

“If Santo Domingo was in operation today, refined production of 4,700 tonnes of cobalt per year would make Capstone the fourth largest battery-grade cobalt producer outside of China, and the largest in the Americas,” the company’s president and chief executive, Darren Pylot, said in a statement.

The mine, in which Korea Resources has a 30% interest, would also be one of the lowest cost producers of the battery metal, opening Chile’s vast potential to becoming a key player in the cobalt sector, Capstone Mining said.

At 4,700 tonnes of cobalt per year, Santo Domingo would also make Capstone the largest producer of the metal in the Americas

For financial flexibility, the Vancouver-based miner has structured the cobalt recovery option as a delayed investment decision, timed to begin roughly two years after construction begins on the copper-iron-gold concentrator.

When and if a strategic partner is found, Capstone Mining could start producing cobalt at an earlier date, it said.

“Our concept for cobalt recovery in the 2020 PEA opportunity is based on its association with pyrite which is preferentially concentrated in the flotation process at the copper cleaners/scavengers and then further upgraded to a 0.7% cobalt concentrate, said Albert Garcia, vice president of projects.

“Overall, recoveries for cobalt will be approximately 78%, with additional benefits in the form of increased copper recovery, sulfuric acid production and energy generation.” 

Santo Domingo’s current base case economics don’t include the capital to build cobalt processing facilities nor any of the revenues from the metal recovery. 

Construction at the project, located 50 km southwest of Codelco’s El Salvador copper mine, is expected to start later this year.

Over its almost 18-year mine life, Santo Domingo is slated to produce an average of 134-million pounds a year of copper, 4.2-million tonnes a year of iron concentrates and 17,000 annual ounces of gold.

On top of the cobalt-producing option, Capstone is considering the potential to utilize autonomous equipment and infrastructure sharing.

Capstone has two producing copper mines — Pinto Valley in Arizona, US, and Cozamin in Mexico.