eCobalt Solutions Inc. has reported that positive progress continues to be made on optimisation of the Idaho Cobalt Project (ICP). Successful laboratory scale testing has demonstrated arsenic removal from ICP ore concentrates by conventional roasting methods. These successful results support the company's new direction to produce a clean (low arsenic content) cobalt concentrate product, an upstream precursor material for battery cathode production, that may result in material reduction of capital and operating cost at the Cobalt Production Facility (CPF).
This product change and other project optimisation efforts, as announced by the company on 7 December 2017, have the potential to result in a significant improvement in economics for the ICP. This new opportunity is being pursued in response to changes in battery supply chain dynamics and in-depth discussions with potential offtake partners.
Paul Farquharson, President and CEO of eCobalt Solutions commented: "The successful test results to remove arsenic is a significant positive development as we can demonstrate to potential offtake partners that a clean cobalt concentrate with arsenic levels below 1% can be produced from the ICP. This confirmation advances ongoing offtake discussions and further reduces the technical and execution risks of the project. This new development has the potential to decrease total capital requirements without altering the project's initial timeline".
Clean Cobalt Concentrate Production
Testing during the week of 18 December 2017 at Dundee Sustainable Technologies' (DST) facilities in Quebec, witnessed by Micon International Ltd. (Micon) and SNC Lavalin Inc. (SNC) metallurgists, has identified that the ICP ore is amenable to roasting, resulting in a 99% reduction of arsenic to <0.5% arsenic content and up to 50% reduction in sulfur in atmospheric roasting conditions between 700 and 850 degrees Celsius. These positive results support further metallurgical work, which will continue with pilot scale testing of a bulk sample currently being collected for processing at DST in late January 2018. This pilot testing will affirm development of a feasibility level flow sheet and costing of the optimised process.
The change to a clean cobalt concentrate is in response to changing battery market dynamics and in-depth discussions with potential offtakers. This testing affirms the opportunity to reduce capital and operating cost at the CPF and improve construction timelines by pursuing a clean cobalt concentrate product with by-products of copper and gold. As a less refined product, compared to cobalt sulfate, investment in a CPF can be reduced to a fraction of the capital identified in the September 2017 Feasibility Study (FS). Based on a cobalt price of US$34.00/lb, the ICP's after tax NPV (7.5% discount rate) and IRR per the FS is US$239M and 30.4% respectively. The company believes that a more simplified flowsheet to produce a clean cobalt concentrate product may result in material reduction in both capital and operation expenditures, and along with the new tax law recently passed in the United States, would be expected to have a further significant positive impact on overall project economics.
This opportunity is being pursued with Micon, SNC and DST through detailed metallurgical testing and development of a revised flowsheet with the intent to develop feasibility level designs and costs. The company has begun executing Letters of Intent for offtake and project financing based on this new strategy and intends to identify its partner(s) and definitive agreements in early 2018 after a thorough evaluation of the proposals.