With 2020 underway and COB moving to 100% ownership and legal title of the Broken Hill Cobalt Project (BHCP) I wish to update shareholders on our business.
In December 2019 we reaffirmed a two-part strategy for Cobalt Blue Holdings Limited (COB), namely:
- Bringing the BHCP into production; and
- Commercialisation of COB’s proprietary technology through COB Partnerships.
The Broken Hill Cobalt Project
A key stepping stone on our development path is to build a metallurgical testing centre in Broken Hill. This centre will scale from an initial Pilot Plant Operation (producing ~100-300 kilograms of cobalt sulphate from 90 tonnes of ore) to a larger scale fully integrated Demonstration Plant (producing 1–2 tonnes of cobalt sulphate using up to 2,000 tonnes of ore). The results will form the evidentiary basis for the engineering designs and cost estimates for the BHCP Feasibility Study. The centre will also allow COB to produce varying specifications of cobalt products (including mixed hydroxides and sulphates) for potential commercial partners.
Our technical team has made strong advances developing the Pilot Plant. In December we announced that critical equipment was being QA/QC assessed. That equipment is now in transit to Broken Hill. We expect these first deliveries by late February, commissioning in late Q2, and first operations mid-year.
The Pilot Plant will be focussed on testing the leaching and product recovery circuits. Previously, in 2019, COB completed concentrate trials on 45t of ore at ALS Metallurgy. The 7t of concentrate is now being prepared for thermal decomposition (pyrolysis) trials at ANSAC. The resulting calcine will be processed in the Pilot Plant in mid-2020.
I’d like to take this opportunity to emphasize the considerable scale of this testwork and the opportunities it brings. As part of the development stages of the BHCP, it is imperative that we reliably produce on-spec product for acceptance testing. This will underpin offtake negotiations, and related project finance discussions. The QA/QC testing for cobalt chemicals in battery manufacture requires 1–5kg samples for homogeneity and purity confirmation, and then minimum samples of 100–150 kg for actual test battery manufacture. The battery is then performance tested to meet the demanding standards supporting tomorrow’s EV fleets.
The Demonstration Plant is aiming to deliver multiple production acceptance samples to leading battery production facilities across Asia, Europe and North America. Global industry uptake of our test product requires such extensive acceptance testing, so that our commercial product can qualify as a precursor feedstock from the outset of the BHCP operations. Potential commercial partners will be able to visit the project mine site as well as the Demonstration Plant in 2020, providing inspection of the entire production chain of the BHCP.