- First Cobalt clears obligations through full acquisition to streamline plans for Idaho cobalt resource
- Company fully funded for all current exploratory projects stretching into next year as it awaits current resource estimate
- Cobalt demand has soared with worldwide increase in usage of electric vehicles that have cobalt-needy batteries
- Market tightening expected to continue for cobalt, leading to forecasts of 12,000-metric ton supply gap by 2021
Vertically integrated pure-play cobalt company First Cobalt Corp. (TSX.V: FCC) (OTCQX: FTSSF) (ASX: FCC) is putting the spurs to its strategy of exploring, developing and refining material in North America for sale back into the American battery market amid booming expectations for electric vehicle and numerous other tech device energy needs. The company announced on September 4 that it has acquired 100 percent ownership of its Iron Creek property in the western United States, where historical mineral resource estimates (non-compliant with NI 43-101 standards) of 1.3 million tons grading 0.59 percent cobalt are being expanded upon.
First Cobalt obtained the Iron Creek property last year through the acquisition of US Cobalt, Inc. and, after initial exploratory efforts, accelerated the project to take advantage of the area’s promising potential. Two new drill rigs were installed, and results from underground indicated two broad zones of cobalt-copper mineralization that extend well beyond the limits of the historic resource.
“Our outlook for the Iron Creek Project was instrumental in the decision to eliminate the outstanding royalty and acquire 100% ownership of the project at this time,” First Cobalt president and CEO Trent Mell stated in a news release about the move to free up Iron Creek obligations (http://nnw.fm/J8KOc). “The Company is fully funded to complete our work programs in the USA and Canada this year and into 2019. We anticipate releasing preliminary metallurgical work and the maiden resource estimate for Iron Creek in the next few weeks.”
“This is also an important step in streamlining future works including the permitting process for potential future development,” the company added.
Mell had previously identified the Idaho site as “one of the most prospective and advanced projects in North America” (http://nnw.fm/j3pS7), justifying a $9 million program to accelerate work there. Completion of preliminary metallurgical work and the maiden resource estimate is expected in the next few weeks, and development of a portion of the inferred mineral resource estimate into a secondary measured and indicated resource estimate is expected early next year as a result of surface drilling throughout the latter part of 2018.
The property consists of mining patents and exploration claims that have some infrastructure already in place, including drifting from three adits and an all-weather road that connects to a state highway. The project was under lease to First Cobalt with terms that required the company to make monthly payments and grant a four percent royalty to the leaseholder, but First Cobalt’s $1.07 million payment cleared the obligations. The deal marked a 47 percent reduction of the expected price tag, and First Cobalt’s cash balance of $20 million with an additional $2 million in assets (as of June 30) leaves it in a strong position to move forward with the mine planning process. The company is fully financed to complete all additional drilling programs currently scheduled, and it has begun collecting data for future permit requirements.
First Cobalt expects the pending resource estimate to show “wider true thickness of mineralization” than was reported in the historic calculation, based on the company’s recent drilling. Unlike cobalt resources tied to arsenic-bearing minerals in the rest of Idaho’s recognized ‘Cobalt Belt’, the Iron Creek Project’s cobalt-copper mineralization occurs in pyrite and chalcopyrite within finely layered meta-sedimentary rocks, according to the company.
Rising demand for lightweight electric vehicles, an increasing application of cobalt in the medical sector and growing demand for cobalt alloys in airplane engines are some of the key factors propelling the global cobalt market’s growth, a report from ResearchAndMarkets states (http://nnw.fm/Em58I). Growing demand for cellphones, laptops and large-format rechargeable batteries is also driving the market, which boasts an expected compound annual growth rate of over 10 percent, the report states.
As demand for the metal soars – and as supply struggles to keep pace with consumption – a widening supply gap is expected to emerge, according to market analysts. The global cobalt market will face a tight supply situation, with a gap of 12,000 metric tons by 2021, representing more than 10 percent of current supply levels, the ResearchAndMarkets report states.
First Cobalt’s prospects for presenting a solution to supply level concerns are bolstered by its other assets, including more than 50 past producing mines in Canada’s renowned Cobalt Camp and the only permitted cobalt refinery (currently shuttered) in North America capable of producing battery materials. Amid concerns that cobalt supplies could be further hindered by international trade conflicts, the company’s North America-centric operations stand it in good stead.
For more information, visit the company’s website at http://nnw.fm/FTSSF
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