- Cobalt Blue continues work programs advancing BHCP, the largest primary greenfield cobalt project outside Africa, with feasibility study and final investment decision expected in 2022.
- COB aims to optimise cobalt processing technology to generate battery ready cobalt sulphate products and produce elemental sulphur.
- CRC-Project Program grant and FBI CRC participation provide an exciting opportunity for Cobalt Blue to validate and optimise the technology.
Based in Sydney, Cobalt Blue Holdings Limited (ASX:COB) is a green energy exploration company, owning and developing the Thackaringa Cobalt Project in the vicinity of Broken Hill in New South Wales. Broken Hill is an established mining city, hosting nickel, lead, zinc and silver mining operations with excellent existing infrastructure.
The project, also known as Broken Hill Cobalt Project (BHCP), is the largest greenfield primary cobalt project outside Africa and is a strong contender for the world’s ethical cobalt supply.
The Company has also developed a proprietary cobalt extraction technology from pyrite that is currently under evaluation.
CRC-Project Program Grant and FBI CRC Participation
In February 2020, Cobalt Blue was awarded a $2.4 million grant of Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) under the Australian Government for applied research & development of its proprietary cobalt sulphide ore beneficiation process to produce battery ready cobalt sulphate products in the upcoming three-year period.
After securing the government grant, COB CEO Joe Kaderavek said -
The Company looks forward to work in synergy with the R&D partners, which include prestigious institutions, namely, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Anergy Australia and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to carry out large-scale metallurgical tests to demonstrate and optimise the processing of cobalt pyrite ores for producing cobalt sulphate battery ready products.
Of the total $2.4 million grant, Cobalt Blue would directly receive $1.57 million to develop and operate a demonstrable pilot plant with the remaining $0.83 million to be allocated to ANSTO and UNSW for applied research activities on the pyrolysis stage of the beneficiation process.
It is to be noted that Cobalt Blue is also a participant in the Future Battery Industries Co-operative Research Centre (FBI CRC), which in May 2019 secured a government grant of $25 million. The $136 million industry and research collaboration, FBI CRC is engaged in further developing the entire value chain aspects, right from mining to manufacturing and recycling, as part of the six-year plan to advance on each of these steps.
Cobalt Blue identifies both CRC-Project Program and Future Battery Industries CRC as mega platforms and support to showcase its proprietary technology and further optimise the technology to process cobalt pyrite ores to produce cobalt sulphate battery products and elemental sulphur, which is a major precursor for the fertiliser industry in Australia.
The Company plans to produce over 300,000 tonnes of elemental sulphur every year, thereby substantially contributing towards the need of elemental sulphur in metallurgical and fertiliser applications in Australia, which currently imports more than 1 million tonnes a year.
Cobalt Beneficiation Method
Cobalt Blue’s processing technology includes 2 major steps –
- Pyrolysis – Thermal decomposition of pyrite ores to produce pyrrhotite (Fe?????S) where (x = 0 to 0.2), and elemental sulphur
- Leaching – Leaching of artificial pyrrhotite to produce cobalt products
Pyrolysis process would be further researched and possibly improved by UNSW, ANSTO, and Cobalt Blue. In addition, the Company is already working in close coordination with furnace manufacturer Anergy to scale up from the current batch tests at the ALS Metallurgy to a continuous equipment system. Almost 150 kilograms of pyrite concentrate had been tested at a throughput of 4-8 kilograms per hour until the CRC was announced in February 2020.
Cobalt Blue has already undertaken significant testwork on the Broken Hill’s cobalt-nickel hydroxide intermediate precipitate, which resulted in ~ 37% cobalt and 6% nickel content with lower impurities, highlighting a premium product.
Further, BHCP concentrate samples will be pyrolyzed by Anergy and will be later tested at the pilot plant at Broken Hill. The Company plans to scale the initial pilot plant operation, anticipated to commission in Q4 2020, to a subsequent larger scale fully integrated demonstration plant, which would continuously process several thousand tonnes of ore extracted from the Broken Hill Cobalt Project.
With the CRC-P grant and FBI CRC participation, Cobalt Blue is expecting to achieve trained personnel that can be employed in future operations, de-risk technical aspects of minerals processing, new method for elemental sulphur production and ability to apply technology to other projects in Australia.
COB traded at $0.105 a share on 17 June 2020 and has delivered a return of 10% in the past three months.
(Please note that currency mentioned is in AUD, unless otherwise specified)
There is no investor left unperturbed with the ongoing trade conflicts between US-China and the devastating bushfire in Australia.
Are you wondering if the year 2020 might not have taken the right start? Dividend stocks could be the answer to that question.
As interest rates in Australia are already at record low levels, find out which dividend stocks are viewed as the most attractive investment opportunity in the current scenario in our report.