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Fortune Minerals extends purchase option on Alberta refinery site for NICO project

Aerial view of Fortune Minerals’ NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth copper project in the Northwest Territories. Credit: Fortune Minerals

Fortune Minerals (TSX: FT) has further extended its purchase option on the JFSL Field Services ULC brownfield site in Lamont County, Alberta, where it plans to build a hydrometallurgical refinery for the company’s vertically integrated NICO critical minerals project.

The JFSL facility is a former steel fabrication plant located on nearly 77 acres of lands in Alberta’s industrial heartland northeast of Edmonton and has 42,000 square feet of serviced shops and buildings adjacent to the Canadian National Railway. The site is also close to services, sources of reagents, and a commutable pool of engineers and skilled chemical plant workers to materially reduce capital and operating costs for the planned NICO project development.

Fortune initially signed a six-month option agreement on the JFSL facility in January 2022 and later extended the option for another two months. Fortune cites current economic and capital market volatility as reasons for the latest extension.

Pursuant to the original option agreement, Fortune can acquire the JFSL site and facilities for C$5.5 million ($4m). To secure the extension, the company must pay monthly increments of C$15,000 ($10,900) up to December 31, 2022.

During the extension period, JFSL Field Services can solicit competing offers for the facility, subject to Fortune’s right to complete its purchase on the agreed terms by the end of the month for any extension period and/or Fortune’s right of first refusal to match a competing offer.

The refinery would process metal concentrates from the planned NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper mine and concentrator in the Northwest Territories, enabling Fortune to become a vertically integrated producer of cobalt sulphate needed to make the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, portable electronics and stationary storage cells.

The refinery would also produce bismuth ingots and oxide, an ‘eco-metal’ used in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries and with growing demand as an environmentally safe and non-toxic replacement for lead in free-machining steels and aluminum, brasses and solders used in potable drinking water sources and electronics, ceramic glazes, radiation shielding, glass, ammunition, and fishing weights, and environmentally safe plugs to decommission oil and gas wells.

The mineral reserves for the NICO deposit also contain more than 1 million oz. of gold, along with copper as a minor by-product.

The NICO project is an advanced development stage critical minerals asset that has already received environmental assessment approval and the major mine permits for the facilities in the NWT. The project has also been assessed in positive feasibility and front-end engineering and design (FEED) studies that will be updated to reflect the new refinery site and recent project optimizations.

Discovered by Fortune in 1996, the NICO discovery represents an iron-oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) class deposit that contains proven and probable minerals reserves totaling 33 million tonnes containing 1.1 million oz. of gold, 82 million lb. of cobalt, 102 million lb. of bismuth and 27 million lb. of copper.