Located in the Canadian Cobalt Camp, approximately 600km from the US border, the First Cobalt Refinery is equipped to produce either a cobalt sulfate for the lithium-ion battery market or cobalt metal.

The production of cobalt sulfate marks a significant milestone in bringing the company’s cobalt refinery in North America to re-commissioning. The refinery is currently on care and maintenance.

First Cobalt said that the test work carried out in single batches in order to improve product specifications to meet offtake partner requirements through process optimization.

The product assayed 20.8% cobalt, which is more than the reference grade for sulphate pricing and the product is classified as high purity, achieving over 99.9% purity, the company noted.

First Cobalt president and CEO Trent Mell said: “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.

“Third party studies have confirmed that the permitted facility could be recommissioned in 18-24 months.

“Furthermore, the cobalt hydroxide used in these tests is currently sold at approximately 60% of the prevailing cobalt price which could offer good margin opportunities based on the findings of the previously released restart study.”

The firm is seeking a number of non-dilutive financing options required to restart the facility.

Claimed to be the only permitted primary cobalt refinery in North America, the First Cobalt Refinery is ideally suited to treat North American arsenic-rich mine concentrate.

As next step towards restart of the refinery, First Cobalt has selected Ausenco to work with SGS Canada on detailed engineering to assess further refinement to the flowsheet and circuit optimizations to maximize potential output.