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Permitted US cobalt developer powers up

Power connections and blue skies are potent pieces of symbolism for a budding cobalt producer, and eCobalt Solutions has them both at its site near Salmon in the heart of the historic Idaho Cobalt Belt.
Permitted US cobalt developer powers up Permitted US cobalt developer powers up Permitted US cobalt developer powers up Permitted US cobalt developer powers up Permitted US cobalt developer powers up

View of the Idaho Cobalt Project’s water treatment plant (WTP) and concentrator pads with WTP foundation on the left

Staff reporter

The TSX-listed (ECS) company's president and CEO Paul Farquharson said this week construction of the company's US$190 million Idaho Cobalt Project continued under the ‘gem state's' almost endless summer blue skies (pictured above).

"Activities are ramping up with delivery of critical equipment to site for the construction and finalisation of all environmental systems," Farquharson said.

"We have energized the main transformer with installed grid power now operational.

"The concrete plant is on site and we have begun constructing foundations for the water treatment plant."

eCobalt also continued to attract "talented individuals … [with] a high level of operational expertise" to the Idaho project, which is aiming to become a unique new source of primary and secondary cobalt products in the next two years.

The company now has 29 people working out of its Idaho office at Salmon.

Farquharson said recent hires had included a project vice president/general manager, process manager, HR manager, controller, process control foreman, senior metallurgist, mill and water treatment plant superintendents, environmental manager and technicians, health and safety personnel, a field project manager, senior geologist and purchasing superintendent.

eCobalt has already spent more than US$120 million advancing the ICP and earlier this year raised about C$30 million of developing equity funding, leaved it fully-funded through the project's remaining pre-development period.

The ICP will include an 800 tonnes a day underground mine near Salmon, and a cobalt production facility at Blackfoot, Idaho. eCobalt is looking at initial annual output of about 2.4 million lb of cobalt, 3.3Mlb of copper, and 3,000ozpa of gold over 12.5 years. That's based on the Ram deposit, with e-Cobalt not yet having explored 10% of its ICB landholding.

eCobalt says its engineering and metallurgical testwork has confirmed it can produce a clean (<0.5% arsenic) cobalt concentrate with the arsenic safely sequestered in a vitrified solid using a patented vitrification process.

So, potentially plenty of blue sky ahead for the company and its project. eCobalt is trading this week at (C$1.00) about half the levels of January this year, capitalising the company at C$158 million.

Cobalt prices hit 10-year highs last year. Most of the world's cobalt comes out of the politically challenged Democratic Republic of Congo.

High cobalt prices have led to substitution fears, but surging use in rechargeable batteries and energy grid storage applications is widely tipped to maintain pressure on pricing and new supply. Cobalt's high energy density and safety are factors that are expected to see it remain a key component of mainstream battery technologies.

The rechargeable battery market could already account for 50% of current cobalt use.

Meanwhile, energy storage also represents a "huge potential growth" market for high-quality cobalt, say analysts.