- Demand for cobalt as component in lithium batteries climbs
- Present cobalt sources mainly located in Africa
- First Cobalt is largest North American explorer focused on cobalt
- Recent drill results promise profitable commercialization
In mining, the lament is often ‘good depth, pity about the size’ or ‘good size, pity about the depth’, since what determines high-grade mineralization is always related to the depth and size of the intersection. Arguably, size may be a weightier factor. Mining technology today has advanced to the point where excavation at the most abysmal depths is commercially feasible. The Kennecott Copper Mine, an open-pit mine near Salt Lake City, Utah, is at 0.6 miles (0.97 km) deep and 2.5 miles (4 km) wide, the largest and deepest excavated hole in the world.
However, while deep holes may make the record books (Kennecott, also known as the Bingham Canyon Mine, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966), miners naturally prefer to find their minerals closer to the surface. Thus, drill results like those announced by junior exploration company First Cobalt Corp. (TSX.V: FCC) (OTCQB: FTSSF) augur well. Assay results from the Woods Extension Zone of Cobalt South in the Canadian Cobalt Camp confirm cobalt mineralization extending over a broad area that includes 0.47 percent cobalt in one hole and 0.77 percent cobalt in another (http://nnw.fm/61fLc). Such rich mineralization, in samples found at depths of less than 150 meters, certainly increases the possibility of profitable commercialization.
First Cobalt’s drill results signal significant cobalt potential in the Woods Extension Zone. The company has identified broad breccia areas not previously seen at either the Frontier or Keeley Mines, and new fault zones continue to be discovered. Cobalt mineralization has been confirmed in two different structures at relatively shallow depths that may extend to surface. As a result, the company’s 2018 exploration program will be focused on identifying potential targets in the Cobalt Camp that could be amenable to open-pit mining.
First Cobalt is the largest landowner in the Cobalt Camp of Ontario, Canada, a region that includes the historically significant Keeley-Frontier mine, the Haileybury mine and the Bellellen mine. The company controls over 10,000 hectares of prospective land and 50 historic mines, as well as a mill and the only permitted cobalt refinery in North America capable of producing battery materials. It began drilling in the Cobalt Camp in 2017, and the company is seeking to build shareholder value through new discovery and growth opportunities.
Demand for cobalt is expected to continue at elevated levels. The metal is an essential component of lithium-ion batteries, where it is used in the cobalt-oxide cathode. Batteries employing lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) technology can be found in mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles. Though they are preferred for their high energy density, satisfying demand for cobalt remains problematic. ‘About 90 percent of China’s cobalt originates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where Chinese firms dominate the mining industry’, according to the Washington Post (http://nnw.fm/L0Szq). The largest of these, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, supplies ‘some of the world’s largest battery makers.’ However, for over a decade, reports have been surfacing of widespread human rights abuses, both within its operations and throughout DRC-based cobalt mining in general. Moreover, the U.S. Labor Department has listed Congolese cobalt as a product that it suspects is produced using child labor.
These geo-economic forces put First Cobalt in a unique position. The company is the largest exploration company operating in North America that’s focused purely on cobalt. Apart from its properties at the Cobalt Camp, First Cobalt is in the midst of acquiring the Iron Creek cobalt project in Idaho, which is estimated at 1.3 million tons of 0.59 percent cobalt. This may be why the company’s share price has soared by 90 percent, according to Bloomberg (http://nnw.fm/68nvX).
Recently, First Cobalt announced its inclusion on the 2018 TSX Venture 50, an annual ranking of the top 50 publicly traded companies on the TSX Venture Exchange (http://nnw.fm/eY9eJ). The TSX Venture 50 lists the top 10 companies in five major industry sectors, identified as leaders in creating shareholder value based on market capitalization growth, share price appreciation and trading volume. From a total of 1,200 mining companies listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, First Cobalt was ranked fourth on the list of leading mining companies for 2017.
For more information, visit the company’s website at http://nnw.fm/FTSSF
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