- First Cobalt drilling program in Idaho shows promise for important high-tech metal
- During the next decade, demand for li-ion battery cobalt alone expected to double current levels for metal’s entire market
- $9 million program at First Cobalt’s Idaho site preparing NI 43-101-compatible report on historic site with still-unexplored potential
First Cobalt Corp. (TSX.V: FCC) (OTCQX: FTSSF) (ASX: FCC) is reaping rewarding reports from its exploration to extend a historic resource in Idaho’s prolific Cobalt Belt. The project is an example of industry efforts to establish North American sources of the metal so vital to high-tech batteries and other modern tech applications, and First Cobalt’s portfolio indicates its potential in leading the effort. Having stable North America-based operations and sources could help avoid unpredictable future problems, such as Panasonic’s recent sudden cut off of a cobalt supplier due its relationship with Cuba.
First Cobalt has three significant North American assets: the Iron Creek Project in Idaho, with its historic mineral resource estimate (not currently compliant with NI 43-101 standards); the Canadian Cobalt Camp north of the Great Lakes, with more than 50 past producing mines; and the only cobalt refinery in North America capable of producing battery materials, located near the Cobalt Camp property.
This year’s 30,000-meter drill program at the Idaho site is designed to extend the strike length of the previously known mineralization in two zones (Waite and No Name) and potentially determine if a third zone is present where continuity of intersections has been encountered between holes along strike. Six drill holes completed at the western end of the cobalt-copper mineralized zones have validated previously reported intersections and extended the total strike length of the Waite Zone westward to 520 meters along a dip length of more than 250 meters from the surface.
First Cobalt reports that the extended portion of the Waite Zone is particularly copper-rich, and that high-grade intercepts are found within broader zones of lower grade cobalt-copper that could become suitable for bulk mining methods. The calculation of a mineral resource estimate compliant with NI 43-101 reporting standards is currently underway for the initial resource area drilled last year and early this year, and results are expected by October.
First Cobalt announced plans for the assay advancement of the Idaho property on June 11 as part of a $9 million program to develop a Measured and Indicated Resource estimate of the site, which First Cobalt obtained through its acquisition of US Cobalt.
“First Cobalt acquired US Cobalt because we believe that Iron Creek is one of the most prospective and advanced projects in North America,” First Cobalt President and CEO Trent Mell stated in a news release at the time (http://nnw.fm/j3pS7).
On July 19 (http://nnw.fm/8aBgy), Mell added, “Drilling continues to extend the strike and dip extent of the Iron Creek Project beyond the boundaries of the maiden resource estimate expected in October. The consistency of cobalt grades across wider widths and the higher copper grades were expected and are encouraging. These results support further testing the western strike extension of Iron Creek for a second resource estimate in early 2019.”
International metals and minerals research agency Roskill anticipates that sufficient quantities of refined capacity cobalt will exist through 2021 but that “there is considerable uncertainty thereafter.” Roskill anticipates that demand from the high-tech battery sector alone will more than double the size of the entire current market, which includes nickel alloys, tool materials, catalysts and magnets, by 2027 (http://nnw.fm/onrR5). Cobalt also enjoys national security status, thanks to its use in rocket and jet engines.
Roskill estimates that cobalt demand was 118,000 metric tons last year (http://nnw.fm/KM5sS). The research and consultancy group anticipates the demand for cobalt at 310,000 metric tons a decade from now, of which more than 240,000 metric tons will come from the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptops and mobile phones. Roskill also noted that prices for cobalt resources hit a 10-year high during the first half of this year, reaching over $90,000 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange.
First Cobalt is a vertically integrated North American pure-play cobalt company with headquarters in Canada. The escalation in trade war politics between the United States and other countries currently has the potential to impact a variety of market sectors, including cobalt. However, First Cobalt’s activities have opened the potential for responding to adverse conditions beyond North America, particularly because of its extraction refinery — the only one permitted for cobalt in North America. Although it is not operational at present, the facility is capable of resuming the production of battery-grade materials as First Cobalt decides to do so.
For more information, visit the company’s website at http://nnw.fm/FTSSF
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