- Despite growing need for cobalt in EV production, U.S. produces less than one percent of global supply
- Cobalt supply from DRC stigmatized for human rights concerns
- Promising drill results in Idaho and Canada offer promise of domestic supply sources
The recent publication by First Cobalt Corp. (TSX.V: FCC) (OTCQX: FTSSF) (ASX: FCC) of drill results from its Iron Creek Project in Idaho is good news for the North American cobalt community. It raises hope of lessened dependence on foreign supplies of the metal, now categorized as a critical mineral commodity by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). First Cobalt’s drill results extend cobalt mineralization in the Waite Zone by an additional 50 meters to the west, as well as to surface. They hold the promise of boosting U.S. production, which, in 2017, was a mere 650 tons – a paltry amount compared to global production of 110,000 tons. The news could not have come at a better time. As global market penetration of EVs increases, cobalt supplies remain tight, with a recent report from Swiss bank, UBS, warning of a shortage by 2022. The announcement also parallels similar good tidings from First Cobalt’s Canadian properties; drilling there has extended the strike length of the mineralized zone in the Kerr area at Cobalt Camp to over 350 meters.
Despite its critical importance to a variety of American industries, the U.S. produces very little cobalt. Production in 2017 was just 650 tons, about one percent of what is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the world’s largest producer. Consequently, domestic users must rely mostly on imported cobalt. The top two U.S. sources of refined cobalt are Norway, which provides 16 percent, and China, with 15 percent. Much of this cobalt originates in the DRC, which supplies about 58 percent of global mined cobalt.
The pressure on buyers to source non-DRC supplies of the metal is growing. Major companies, including Apple, battery maker Samsung SDI and Chinese cobalt producer Huayou Cobalt, are now attempting to map their cobalt supply chains, an exercise that will allow the source of their cobalt purchases to be identified. They are eyeing, with increased interest, juniors like First Cobalt that are reporting promising drill results.
First Cobalt recently announced that cobalt mineralization in the Waite zone of its Iron Creek Project in Idaho has been extended to the surface and by an additional 50 meters to the west for a total strike length of 520 meters (http://nnw.fm/79AJq). The Waite Zone lies south and parallel to the historic No Name Zone, but it was not included in any previous historic reports on the area. High grade intercepts have been detected within longer intervals of mineralization, including 0.52 percent cobalt and 1.10 percent copper over 4.6 meters within 37.8 meters grading 0.12 percent cobalt and 0.41 percent copper in the Waite Zone. In addition, several mineralized intercepts were found in the footwall of the Waite Zone, including 0.33percent cobalt over 10.2 meters, reflecting new mineralization that will be tested in follow up drilling.
Drilling at Iron Creek in 2017 was completed to confirm a historic estimate (non-compliant with NI 43-101) of 1.3 million tons grading 0.59 percent cobalt and 0.3 percent copper, which was completed in 1980 by Noranda Inc. That program covered a 460-meter strike length, primarily in the No Name Zone, and the results are the basis for a mineral resource estimate that’s expected to be completed by October 2018. First Cobalt is now undertaking a 70-hole, 30,000-meter drill program designed to double the strike length of the cobalt-copper mineralized zone to 900 meters.
Likewise, First Cobalt has also announced the results of drilling that has extended the strike length of the mineralized zone in the Kerr area to over 350 meters. Results to date from this recently-identified mineralized zone located south of Kerr Lake in the Cobalt North area of the Canadian Cobalt Camp confirm that the area hosts a near-surface network of cobalt veins and disseminated mineralization associated with silver and nickel, as well as copper, zinc and lead (http://nnw.fm/CTj7s). The company is now the largest landowner in Ontario, Canada’s Cobalt Camp, a region that includes the historically significant Keeley-Frontier, Haileybury and Bellellen mines. It 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.
For more information, visit the company’s website at http://nnw.fm/FTSSF
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