TORONTO – First Cobalt Corp. last month provided an update on the expansion and recommissioning of its hydrometallurgical refinery project in Temiskaming Shores, Ont.
The facility operated from 1996 to 2015, producing cobalt, nickel, copper and silver products. First Cobalt is expanding the plant and modifying the flow sheet to refine third party cobalt hydroxide intermediate product into a battery-grade cobalt sulfate suitable for the electric vehicle market.
According to the statement, the facility remains on schedule for commissioning in the fourth quarter of 2022, at which time it will become the only refiner of battery-grade cobalt sulfate in North America and the second largest outside of China.
Recommissioning of plant utilities has been ongoing, including regulatory inspections and maintenance of electric power supply systems as well as inspection and maintenance of main water supply piping and pumping systems.
Geotechnical drilling is underway to gather analytical information for detailed design of the foundations for the new solvent extraction building, cobalt sulfate crystallizer building addition and effluent treatment facility, and improvements to the refinery access road have been completed to allow for the heavier traffic of transport trucks.
First Cobalt has also received a permit to take water and two remaining permit amendments (air/noise permit and industrial sewage works permit) and a site closure plan have been submitted to regulators for review.
Among subcontractors working on the project, ABB was onsite to inspect and perform maintenance on the electric power supply systems and GFL was contracted to remove superfluous chemicals from the site. Soderholm Maritime Services mobilized a four-person diving crew to inspect existing lakewater intake screening which feeds the main water supply pumping and piping network to the refinery.
“Being located in Canada’s largest mining and mineral processing corridor has allowed us to build a strong project team, most of whom are local and will remain with First Cobalt through commissioning and into operations,” said the firm’s vice-president of project development Mark Trevisiol. “We continue to build the refinery expansion utilizing much of the existing physical assets. The equipment and processes selected are designed around our feedstock using known chemical processing methods employed in various other refining operations around the world.”
President and CEO Trent Mell added, “This is the first major battery-grade cobalt sulfate refinery to be built outside China in over 20 years, so this is not only an exciting project for us but also for the Western battery supply chain.”
First Cobalt is also assessing a longer-term strategy to produce nickel sulfate to attract a precursor manufacturer to a future battery park within the existing refinery footprint.