Major Breakthrough: Cobalt Blue Announces BHCP Testwork Achieving Battery Grade Cobalt Product

Summary

  • Extensive testwork demonstrates Cobalt Blue’s flagship BHCP’s potential to produce high purity, battery ready cobalt sulphate.
  • Testwork achieved >20.8% cobalt sulphate heptahydrate and >99.3% elemental sulphur purity.
  • New opportunity for nickel sulphate solution as a co-product, with further studies to follow for converting to crystals.
  • Strong partnership with testing, sampling and corporate partners critical for BHCP.
  • Pilot plant under development to be commissioned by late-2020, with revised PFS and updated ore reserve statement expected soon.

Australia-based green energy exploration company, Cobalt Blue Holdings Limited (ASX:COB) has announced testwork results for the final refined products of cobalt sulphate heptahydrate and elemental sulphur. Earlier in April 2020, the Company had announced that the intermediate mixed cobalt-nickel hydroxide product testwork very comfortably met the commercial standards in practice.

The recent testwork results have confirmed the high-quality and purity characteristics of the products via the Company’s proprietary process for recovery of metals from pyrite. The Company has produced 20.8% cobalt sulphate heptahydrate, meeting industry benchmark of 20.5% purity for battery manufacture, and 99.3% grade elemental sulphur.

The recent premium cobalt and sulphur product results, to be used for offtake marketing purposes with commercial customers, mark the achievement of a major milestone towards validation of the proprietary pyrite processing technology and its application at the Thackaringa Cobalt Project. The project located in Broken Hill is also popularly referred as the Broken Hill Cobalt Project.

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Drill samples from the Broken Hill Cobalt Project deposits were utilised to produce cobalt sulphate, elemental sulphur, and mixed hydroxide product (MHP) samples. The product samples were then tested by ALS Metallurgy at Burnie and Perth facilities with specialised services by Harper International for furnace testwork and Enersul for elemental sulphur processing.

These refined product samples will undergo pilot-scale trials at the Cobalt Blue plant at Broken Hill, which is currently under development and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The product samples will be used by Cobalt Blue in discussion with strategic partners, as per the Cobalt Product and Sulphur Sample Program and the COB-Mitsubishi Corporation Sulphur Agreement.

Additionally, the product samples will be shared for processing into cathode precursor with the Australian Future Batteries Industries – Co-operative Research Centre (FBI CRC) along with other sourced feeds including nickel sulphate samples from IGO and NiWest, lithium hydroxide from Tianqi Lithium Australia and manganese sulphate from Pilbara Metals Group.

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Testwork Results for Cobalt Sulphate Heptahydrate and Elemental Sulphur

Cobalt sulphate heptahydrate crystals and a nickel sulphate solution have been produced from the mixed cobalt-nickel hydroxide products (produced in April 2020). Impurities were removed using the mass transfer concepts of conventional ion-exchange and solvent extraction processes.

The final cobalt sulphate crystals were produced following evaporative crystallisation under vacuum. The co-product nickel sulphate solution was also produced, which may be further converted to nickel sulphate crystals in the future.

The cobalt sulphate product upon testing resulted in a greater than 20.8% cobalt grade. The sample purity meets the conventional specifications by the 9 leading global cobalt sulphate heptahydrate suppliers.

The testwork results released on 28 April 2020 had highlighted the production of mixed cobalt-nickel product with a 37% cobalt and 7% nickel. The standard for the mixed cobalt-nickel product was considered to contain 30% cobalt in accordance with Fastmarkets’ standard Cobalt product. The cobalt content of hydroxide from the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranges between 25% and 40%.

Elemental sulphur was produced from ~150 kg sample of concentrate by Harper International along with the pyrrhotite co-product. The concentrate was produced from the pilot testwork treatment of almost 45 tonnes of RC drilling samples.

The elemental sulphur from the Kiln off-gas was condensed and later processed by Enersul to produce sulphur prills. Upon testing for the purity, elemental sulphur resulted in greater than 99.3% grade.

Cobalt Blue Adheres to Timeline, Progress Activities Now at Advanced Stages

In association with ANSAC (ANERGY), 7.5 tonnes of BHCP sample concentrate has been stored in Bunbury, WA, to be utilised for calcine (furnace) testwork later. The calcined material will be utilised for further testing at the Broken Hill’s in-house pilot plant. The calcined material testing would be beneficial for leaching and metallurgical recovery trials while also providing ~1 tonne of elemental Sulphur for assessment by Mitsubishi Corporation.

Though the availability of personnel remains a challenge due to current pandemic-led restrictions, the samples are anticipated to be available in time for pilot plant commissioning later in 2020. Cobalt Blue expects that the testwork will be conducted during Q3 2020.

The Company plans the commissioning of an initial pilot plant with a production capacity of ~100-300kg of cobalt sulphate using 90 tonnes of ore, and later to a fully integrated demonstrable plant with a production capacity of 1-2 tonnes of cobalt sulphate from up to 2,000 tonnes of ore. The results from the pilot plant will form the foundation for the engineering designs and economic modelling and estimations for the BHCP feasibility study. The equipment installation for the initial pilot plant is under progress and remains essential for the subsequent activities.

Cobalt Blue had earlier announced its intention to release an updated mineral reserves statement and PFS, and with these premium cobalt and sulphur product results, the Company expects significant improvement in the project’s economics from the 2018 PFS levels. Moreover, the 2020 Project Update is anticipated to be released in the near future.

Stock Information - On 15 July 2020, COB last traded at $0.105 a share with a market capitalisation of $17.59 million.

(All financial information pertains to Australian currency unless stated otherwise.)


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