Canada funding boost for First Cobalt refinery project to supply EV battery market

by John Shepherd
Site rendering of the expanded First Cobalt refinery. Image: First Cobalt
Canada-based First Cobalt has received a 10m Canadian dollar (£5.8m) funding boost to speed up development of a refinery in Northern Ontario, to sell "ethically-sourced” cobalt into the North American electric vehicle batteries market.

The public funding – a CAD 5m interest-free loan from the Canadian government’s Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario and a CAD 5m non-repayable grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation – will see the company recommission and expand its cobalt refinery north of Toronto.

Once complete, the Temiskaming Shores facility will be the first of its kind in North America, capable of producing 25,000 tonnes of battery-grade cobalt sulfate annually, the company said.

President and CEO Trent Mell said the cobalt feed material to be processed "will be certified as ethically sourced and conflict-free”.

Engineering study

The facility was permitted in 1996 with a nominal throughput of 12 tonnes per day and operated intermittently until 2015, producing cobalt, nickel and silver products. 

In May 2020, First Cobalt completed an engineering study that confirmed the refinery’s suitability to treat cobalt hydroxide at an expanded throughput of 55 tonnes per day to produce a high purity, battery-grade cobalt sulfate.

First Cobalt owns the Iron Creek cobalt project in the US state of Idaho and controls silver and cobalt assets in the Canadian Cobalt Camp (CCC), an historic mining district.

In a related move, the company signed a letter of intent with Kuya Silver Corporation to sell a portion of its silver and cobalt mineral exploration assets in the CCC and form a joint venture to resume mineral exploration activities in the district.