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Studies on First Cobalt refinery restart define CapEx of US$25.7M

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Studies on First Cobalt refinery restart define CapEx of US$25.7M

Studies on the potential restart of First Cobalt Corp.'s namesake refinery in Ontario defined CapEx of US$25.7 million, including a 30% contingency, with operating costs of US$6.7 million per year.

The base case comprises 24 tonnes per day of throughput, representing annual cobalt production of 568 tonnes to 1,064 tonnes based on head grades of 8% to 15% cobalt, according to an Oct. 10 release.

First Cobalt is considering cobalt sulfate or cobalt metal production, which would require modifications to the existing processing flowsheet as the base case assumes cobalt carbonate as the final product. The hydrometallurgical cobalt-silver-nickel refinery could produce a cobalt sulfate for the lithium-ion battery market or cobalt metal for the American aerospace industry.

A permitting review indicated a restart would be possible within 18 months of selecting a feedstock under the base case. The studies outlined three primary sources of potential feed: cobalt concentrate from mining operations, ethically sourced cobalt hydroxide material from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and recycled battery materials from North America.

The company, which also initiated discussions with possible off-take partners, noted that its Iron Creek project in Idaho was not considered as a feedstock source.

The studies also considered an expansion scenario of up to 50 t/d, which would require CapEx of US$105.4 million, including a 30% contingency, with annual operating costs of US$12.6 million. The expansion case represents cobalt production of 1,183 t/y to 2,217 t/y using the same range of head grades.

The studies estimated the replacement cost of the refinery building at both throughput rates, with costs of US$84.4 million for the base case and US$142.6 million for the expansion case. The replacement estimates did not incorporate other site infrastructure such as the tailings management facility.

A final plan for the restart will be made in due course, with next steps including selecting suitable feedstock for processing and deciding to produce either cobalt sulfate or cobalt metal.

First Cobalt, which initiated the restart studies in April, secured a 50% joint venture option on the property from Cobalt One Ltd. in mid-2017 and subsequently agreed to acquire Cobalt One and another company via reverse takeover.