The First Cobalt Refinery is a hydrometallurgical cobalt-silver-nickel refinery located approximately five kilometres east of Cobalt, Ontario. The facility was commissioned in 1996 with a nominal throughput of twelve tonnes per day. A second autoclave was later added to the pressure oxidation circuit to double the throughput to 24 tonnes per day but the second autoclave was never fully commissioned. The current footprint includes an empty feed warehouse that once housed a mill. The facility is located on a 40-acre property that can be expanded to 120 acres with two settling ponds and an autoclave pond.
Aerial image of the exterior of the First Cobalt Refinery buildings.
A 2012 report prepared for a previous owner by Hatch estimated the replacement value of the First Cobalt Refinery at US$78 million, excluding the capital invested in power lines and earthworks related to the tailings facility and roads.
The facility is fully permitted for processing feed containing elevated concentrations of arsenic, such as those from the Cobalt Camp, the Idaho Cobalt Belt and elsewhere in North America. The Company believes that permitting a similar facility in North America today could take a significant investment of time.
The ability of the Refinery to process materials containing elevated arsenic and produce cobalt battery materials could de-risk not only First Cobalt projects, but also other North American cobalt projects.
Aerial image of the facility illustrating the existing footprint of the refinery building and the tailing ponds.
The Refinery contains three circuits: a pressure oxidation circuit, a solvent extraction circuit and a Merrill Crowe circuit. Feed containing arsenic is first treated in the pressure oxidation circuit where arsenic is combined with iron to create a stable iron arsenate called scorodite. The Refinery permits allow scorodite to be disposed of in its autoclave pond.
On April 19, 2018, First Cobalt announced a study of the First Cobalt Refinery to estimate the capital requirements to restart the facility in its current configuration and under an expansion scenario. The expansion scenario study will estimate the additional capital requirements and increase in throughput of an expanded facility within the current building footprint. Operating cost estimates will be provided for both scenarios.