Cobalt tails potential to help meet growing demand

Will tailings projects help meet future demand for cobalt units? Roskill notes that Australia’s Cape Lambert has signed a binding term sheet to acquire a 70% interest in the Kitwe cobalt/copper tailings project in Zambia. Earlier in May, Cape Lambert signed a joint-venture agreement with Paragon Mining to develop the Kipushi cobalt tailings and Kasombo cobalt projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The former is 170 km from the Kitwe tailings.

“Under the terms of the agreement, Cape Lambert will pay $25,000 on the execution of a term sheet to acquire a majority shareholding in Zambian firm Australian Mining Co Zambia, which holds the Kitwe licence. After executing the term sheet, Cape Lambert will have six months in which to exercise its option to spend $500,000 to acquire the interest. The Kitwe licence is estimated to contain over 17 Mt of tailings. The tailings dam has a footprint of approximately 750 m x 650 m and is up to 15m in height.

“This represents one of several potential tailings projects in Central Africa that may be developed if strong cobalt demand and high prices endure. By far the largest is the RTR project of ERG (in the DRC) which is expected to become operational before the end of the decade and eventually produce over 20,000 t/y of cobalt. Such projects may become highly important over the medium term, with Roskill’s new cobalt report forecasting a growing tightness in feedstock availability after 2020.”