eCobalt Solutions has identified the potential to increase the production rate by 50% at its Idaho cobalt project (ICP) in the US, even before it has started mining.
Following an extensive internal review, the company’s team has assessed the production rate can increase to 1,200 t/d, from 800 tpd, “creating a more resilient project economic plan”, it said.
While the company did not indicate how much extra capital would be involved in such a move – it is continuing to work with Micon International to finalise the feasibility-level study – it did say the change was not expected to significantly delay achieving full production, or require additional permits.
“This 1,200 t/d mine plan with improved economies of scale should create a more resilient project economic plan that can withstand the volatility of the cobalt market experienced recently,” eCobalt said. “A larger and more robust plan will furthermore elevate eCobalt’s position in the cobalt market.”
Michael Callahan, eCobalt’s President and CEO, said: “One of our principal objectives over the past several months has been to build a first-class technical team that has the talent to drive this project and the company forward.
“Together we took a critical look at the work that was in progress on the feasibility study, and rigorously tested all the assumptions to determine whether a larger and stronger plan could be developed.
“The result of this work demonstrated that the incremental cost of retrofitting the mill to process more tonnage is supported by considerably stronger economies of scale while having no expected impact on the approved plan of operations. This plan would allow us to produce more cobalt earlier, thereby increasing cash flows at the beginning of the mine life, improving payback and overall project economics.”
The company’s pilot-level testwork, along with ongoing market developments, have provided critical information needed to refine the list of potential offtake partners, eCobalt said. With the objective to produce a concentrate with the lowest processing cost to be sold at attractive terms, samples have been sent to this list of potential partners.
“The company has received positive feedback from these parties demonstrating that ICP concentrate is desirable due to its clean and ethical production as well as its high cobalt and copper content.
“As there is no equivalent or benchmark concentrate in the market, thorough testing by refineries is required to obtain final concentrate specifications and commercial terms. Testing and analysis of ICP cobalt concentrate samples is currently underway by these parties. As final concentrate specifications may affect downstream processing, additional guidance on the project development timeline will be provided once final indicative terms have been agreed.”
Work required over the next several months to complete the feasibility study with the new targeted production rate includes:
- Adjusting the mining sequence, schedule and costing for 1,200 t/d;
- Completing the engineering to expand the mill to 1,200 t/d;
- Obtaining quotes to bring these cost estimates to feasibility-level, and;
- Defining final concentrate specifications based on competitive commercial terms for offtake.
Over the course of the past 20 years, the company has spent over $135 million developing the project, which is environmentally permitted with proven mineable reserves of cobalt and secondary copper and gold.
The project is located in the heart of the Idaho Cobalt Belt, a mineral-rich, prolific metallogenic district unique to North America, which historically produced around 2 Mt of cobalt from the early 1900s to the 1960s.