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First Cobalt advances refinery commissioning study

May 8, 2019   Don Horne

First Cobalt Corp. has initiated a scoping-level capacity study to estimate the capital and operating requirements for various production scenarios using cobalt hydroxide as feedstock for the restart of its First Cobalt Refinery in Ontario.

“First Cobalt is focused on becoming the first North American refiner of battery grade cobalt sulfate and is in discussions with sources of potential cobalt hydroxide feed material,” says Trent Mell, president and CEO of First Cobalt. “The study announced today is expected to identify upside within the refinery by treating higher grade hydroxide feed material and removing the autoclave circuit, which is the current bottleneck to increasing throughput capacity. We look forward to announcing the results of this study in a few weeks’ time.”

On April 3, 2019, First Cobalt announced the production of a battery grade cobalt sulfate from a cobalt hydroxide feed source using the current refinery flowsheet by SGS Canada. Based on this work, the Company concluded that cobalt hydroxide was the preferred source of feed material to restart the Refinery and that the throughput rate and cost profile could be improved by excluding the autoclave circuit from the flowsheet.

First Cobalt has now engaged Ausenco Engineering Canada Inc. to complete a scoping-level debottlenecking study to define the production capacity of First Cobalt’s Refinery in Ontario with the exclusion of the autoclaves. Results of the study are expected before the end of the month and are expected to provide a better understanding of production constraints and opportunities under various operating scenarios.


The Ausenco study will focus on cobalt hydroxide feed materials and optimizing process flowsheets for the First Cobalt Refinery restart. The conceptual study will update the baseline production capacity and capital estimate, without the autoclave circuit, as well as explore additional production capacity for the refinery under additional process flowsheets, estimating the capital and operating costs for each scenario. The report will support First Cobalt in developing the business case for the restart and serve as a foundation for future work to generate a financeable project definition.

Ausenco is a global consulting, engineering, project delivery and asset operations, management and optimization solutions firm to the minerals & metals, oil & gas and industrial sectors.

The First Cobalt Refinery is a hydrometallurgical cobalt-silver-nickel refinery located approximately five kilometres east of Cobalt, Ont., commissioned in 1996. Once operational, the refinery would become the only North American producer of refined cobalt for the North American EV market.

The facility was originally permitted to processing feed containing elevated concentrations of arsenic, such as those from the Cobalt Camp, the Idaho Cobalt Belt and elsewhere in North America.

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