Production of battery grade cobalt blows up First Cobalt’s stock

Cobalt sulfate produced using First Cobalt Refinery flowsheet. Image courtesy of First Cobalt Corp

First Cobalt’s refinery, Cobalt, Ontario. Image from First Cobalt.

Toronto-based First Cobalt Corp.’s (CVE: FCC) stock soared over 38% Wednesday, after the company announced it has successfully produced a battery grade cobalt sulphate at its refinery near the town of Cobalt, Ontario. The refinery has the potential to produce up to 2,000 tonnes of cobalt product per year or more if the autoclave and solvent extraction circuits are used.

Test work was carried out in single batches so that product specifications could be optimized to meet offtake partner requirements. The product assayed 20.8% cobalt, above the reference grade for sulphate pricing. It is classified as high purity, achieving over 99.9% purity, the company said.

The restart of the First Cobalt Refinery is an important step towards producing battery materials in North America with a clean record from mine to machine” — Henrik Fisker

“Producing a battery grade cobalt sulfate is one of our most significant accomplishments as the majority of refined cobalt for the electric vehicle market is produced in Asia. With no cobalt sulfate production in North America today, First Cobalt stands to become the first such producer for the American electric vehicle market,” Trent Mell, President and CEO, said in the press release.

“Electric vehicle demand in North America will keep growing,” said Henrik Fisker, First Cobalt director and CEO of electric vehicle manufacturer Fisker Inc.

“Companies such as Fisker continue to introduce new, affordable EV models to the market. Automakers and battery manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure any materials we use in our batteries are sourced in an ethical way. The restart of the First Cobalt Refinery is an important step towards producing battery materials in America with a clean record from mine to machine.”

First Cobalt has hired Ausenco to work with SGS Canada on detailed engineering to assess further refinement to the flowsheet and circuit optimizations to maximize potential output.

First Cobalt wants to recommission North America’s only permitted primary cobalt refinery, which is on care and maintenance. The company has begun discussions with automotive manufacturers, cobalt miners, and investors ahead of moving the refinery to a more advanced stage.

At market close Wednesday, First Cobalt’s shares were trading at C$0.22, up 38.7% on the day. More than 9 million shares exchanged hands during the day, over 15 times the stock’s usual trading  volume. The company has a C$73 million market cap.

The price of cobalt has fallen dramatically over the last three years, after reaching a high of $90,000 per tonne on the LME last year, it is now trading at $32,000 per tonne. According to Bloomberg, refined cobalt supply may not meet demand by 2021, with demand growth driven largely by passenger EVs and consumer electronics.

In March, cobalt sulphate prices fell 59% year-on-year in China, with prices ranging between $7,150-$9,250 per tonne, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

(A version of this article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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