Fortune Minerals, Rio Tinto to collaborate on critical minerals recovery technology

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

Fortune Minerals (TSX: FT) and Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) have entered a collaboration that seeks to maximize the value of critical mineral supply chain investments in North America.

On Friday, the companies signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of new technology that will improve the recovery of critical minerals such as cobalt and bismuth.

Testing will be done at Rio Tinto Kennecott’s integrated copper mining and smelting operations in Utah, and at Fortune’s planned refinery in Alberta, where bulk concentrates produced from its proposed NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper mine in Northwest Territories will be processed.

The collaboration will aim to increase Fortune’s cobalt and bismuth refining operations to process co-product streams of the minerals recovered from the Kennecott smelter.

The parties will also work together assess different process methods and technology options to recover the bismuth and cobalt contained in Kennecott’s smelter waste streams. This includes assessing the effectiveness of blending Rio’s intermediate products with NICO concentrates and conducting batch recovery tests using Fortune’s refinery flow sheets.

The partnership follows the Canadian and the US governments’ Joint Action Plan on Critical Mineral Collaboration, signed in 2020, that enables critical minerals used in new technologies to be produced within North America. Cobalt and bismuth are both included in this list and are used for sustainable energy resources.

“Working with Rio Tinto to recover metals from their co-product streams is part of our corporate strategy to expand production of critical minerals, and we are excited to be working with one of the world’s premier mining companies on the first of these opportunities,” Fortune Minerals CEO Robin Goad said in a news release.

“This collaboration could provide a solution to support greater production of the metals needed for the energy transition and growing sustainable economy,” Goad added.

“We are enthusiastic about this partnership with Fortune Minerals as we continue looking at our waste streams to develop new, sustainable sources of critical minerals here in North America,” Rio Tinto Kennecott managing director Nate Foster added.

For 120 years, Rio’s Kennecott operations outside of Salt Lake City have been mining and processing copper and other minerals including gold, silver, molybdenum and tellurium from the rich ore body of the Bingham Canyon mine.

Fortune’s 100% owned NICO asset is a fully vertically integrated project with environmental assessment approval and major mine permits in place. The deposit, first discovered in 1996, is said to contain more than 10% of global bismuth reserves along with significant gold.

Shares of Fortune Minerals rose 14.3% by 12:45 a.m. EDT on the back of the MOU signing. The company has a market capitalization of C$16.7 million ($12.3m).