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Clean cobalt cons from Nico

Canadian project developer Fortune Minerals (TSX:FT) is weighing selling upgraded and essentially arsenic-free cobalt concentrates from its NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, instead of taking a more costly vertically integrated approach.
Clean cobalt cons from Nico Clean cobalt cons from Nico Clean cobalt cons from Nico Clean cobalt cons from Nico Clean cobalt cons from Nico

The London, Ontario-based company is evaluating the merits and conducting cost-benefit analysis of building a lower capital cost mine project that would produce concentrates, instead of a higher capital cost mine and purpose-built refinery near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that would produce value added cobalt chemicals.

Metallurgical tests conducted by Dundee Sustainable Technologies (DST) to assess the utility of its pyrolysis roast and arsenic stabilisation processes on NICO ores proved successful in removing 99% of the associated arsenic to lower than 0.2% in bulk concentrates.

The methods successfully improved the concentrate grade between 20-30% by selectively removing arsenic and sulphur during pyrolysis. The tests also showed that no cobalt, gold or copper were lost during the fire treatment and gold could be recovered by cyanidation.

The latest metallurgical tests give Fortune a second option for bismuth recovery using pyrolysis, as secondary flotation has already been proven successful. Fortune says the arsenic can be safely stabilised by vitrification in a fused iron-silicate glass that passes US Environmental Protection Agency standards for disposal in a landfill.

Fortune will prepare a technical report to document the most commercially attractive project.

The test work was initiated after several mining and refining companies contacted Fortune expressing interest in buying metal concentrates directly from the mine. The company has been working to secure the C$589 million capital required to build the integrated project. To date, it has signed more than 35 confidentiality agreements with companies interested in strategic partnerships to build and operate the NICO project.

NICO currently hosts combined proven and probable reserves of 82.3 million pounds of cobalt grading 0.11%; 1.1 million ounces of gold grading 1.03%; 102.1 million pounds of bismuth at 0.14% and 27.2 million pounds of copper at 0.04%.

Despite a 4.17% gain Monday to C12.5c a share, the equity remains down more than 40% over the past 12 months, giving the initiative a $42.33 million market capitalisation.