- Global cobalt market set for CAGR of 11.6 percent
- Global supply shortage on the horizon as EV production accelerates
- First Cobalt controls claims stretching over 10,000 hectares (39 square miles)
With global demand for cobalt now exceeding 100,000 tonnes per annum, a supply shortfall for the metal seems imminent. Over the next 10 years, the cobalt market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.6 percent (http://nnw.fm/6NwUR). More than half of world supply is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), some of it by thousands of “creuseurs” (diggers), who work at great risk to their health and safety. The industry has been accused of widespread abuse, in particular, the employment of child labor, with a report by Amnesty International and African Resources Watch proclaiming that it is ‘time to recharge corporate action and inaction to tackle abuses in the cobalt supply chain in DRC.’ Such alarms are raising the prospect that battery manufacturers, who use about 42 percent of global production, will turn to alternative sources, like those operated by First Cobalt Corp. (TSX.V: FCC) (OTCQX: FTSSF). The company, which controls 50 historic mining operations across the Cobalt Camp, is extending its muckpile sampling program. “Success with this program could warrant reactivating the mill and potentially the First Cobalt Refinery to produce battery materials”, Trent Mell, president and CEO of First Cobalt, stated in a news release.
Cobalt, for cathodes, is an essential component in a number of lithium battery technologies. The metal comprises about 10 percent of lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminum-oxide (NCA) batteries, 15 percent of lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide batteries (NMC) and 55 percent of lithium-cobalt-oxide (LCO), according to Statista (http://nnw.fm/v3fPW). About 60 percent of global supply originates in the DRC and about one-fifth of that is mined by artisanal miners or creuseurs. They mine by hand outside the authorized mining zones using the most basic tools to dig out rocks from tunnels deep underground. Generally lacking basic protective or safety equipment, such as respirators, gloves or masks, creusseurs do not enjoy legal protections since they are essentially operating illegally. Their numbers are substantial, estimated at between 110,000 and 150,000, creating a crisis that is causing users of cobalt to look elsewhere for supplies.
They may soon be turning to First Cobalt. The company is the largest landowner in the Cobalt Camp in Ontario, Canada, a region that includes the historically significant Keeley-Frontier mine and the Kerr Lake mine. First Cobalt 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 holds a unique position as a pure play cobalt exploration company. Most of the world’s cobalt is a byproduct of mining some other metal. In 2017, about 69 percent of the world’s cobalt resulted from copper mining, while about 29 percent was a byproduct of nickel mining (http://nnw.fm/mCv50).
First Cobalt recently announced an expansion of its Cobalt Camp muckpile sampling program to the Drummond Mine and Kerr Lake Area in Cobalt North in order to test a different style of mineralization (http://nnw.fm/Q3ViH). This extensive sampling program is intended to provide insight into the distribution of cobalt, silver, nickel and copper from underground waste material brought to surface by historic mining operations. The new sampling program adds three muckpiles in Cobalt North, in addition to the locations in Cobalt South already sampled. Previous grab samples at the Drummond mine included grades of up to 0.65 percent cobalt, 1.79 percent copper and 4,990 g/t silver, prompting inclusion of Drummond and the Kerr Lake Area in an expanded sampling program of waste rock material for disseminated minerals. So far, 343 samples have been collected from 11 muckpiles in Cobalt South, with analysis to begin shortly. Three one-tonne samples have also been collected for ore-sorting technology test-work.
For more information, visit the company’s website at http://nnw.fm/FTSSF
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