Cobalt Blue Holdings Ltd (ASX:COB) (OTCMKTS:CBBHF) (FRA:COH) is producing sample scale Mixed Hydroxide Product (MHP) product for the lithium-ion battery industry from its new Pilot Plant at Broken Hill in the Far West of New South Wales.
This Pilot Plant product sourced from the company’s Broken Hill Cobalt Project (BHCP), is similar to that declared last year in the company’s Project Update 2020 study.
Higher value product
The MHP, a key feedstock supplying the global lithium-ion battery industry, also has the potential to attract higher prices and is in strong demand within the industry.
Assays reported last year for COB’s MHP product revealed cobalt content of 37%.
Fastmarkets quote prices for 30% minimum content cobalt intermediate hydroxides, with typical cobalt content of hydroxides from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is 25-40%.
Excess cobalt above the benchmark commands a further premium due to lower logistics costs per unit of cobalt.
Strong nickel credits will likely command a further payable metal while the low level of these impurities in the COB product is attractive.
COB processing technology
In a letter to shareholders, COB chief executive officer Joe Kaderavek said: “Over the last five months we have made substantial advances in applying our proprietary processing technology to an increasing scale of test-work whilst achieving a product standard that materially exceeds a marketable quality cobalt product.”
He said that the Pilot Plant was now in steady-state, running unit operations and the company was producing sample scale MHP product.
“We are also achieving target rates of product conversion from one process step to another at this continuous rate of throughput,” he said.
“As previously guided, we anticipate converting 85-90% of the cobalt in ground into a paid cobalt product. This speaks to the efficiency of the process.”
Driving process efficiencies
The CEO said: “Looking forward, you may hear me speaking of ’1% gains’, by which I am referring to driving the process efficiencies at a larger scale in order to deliver a more robust feasibility study and better long-term outcomes for shareholders.
“This work has built strong confidence that the plant can transition to a Demonstration Plant scale whilst achieving a similar product specification.”
COB’s Demonstration Plant will largely utilise the same equipment but will operate on a continuous 24 hour, 7 days a week basis and will nominally treat 3,000 tonnes of ore, with a focus on representing ore from the first 10 years of the mining operations.
“The Pilot Plant has provided a strong platform for development of standard operating procedures, which will limit the ramp-up time for the Demonstration Plant operations,” Kaderavek said.
“Our staff have worked tirelessly to deliver this result, with the business learning major lessons in process parameters, equipment and vendor selection.
“We now have proof that our proprietary technology works to a Pilot Plant scale of throughput (up to our target of 90 tonnes of ore to be treated) and looking forward to moving to a Demonstration Plant scale by year-end.”
The larger-scale Demonstration Plant is important to COB for both test-work and commercial reasons.
Larger sample sets will allow the company to pre-qualify as a supplier to global industry partners, with key cathode, integrated battery makers and electric vehicle manufacturers already included in the current Global Sample Partner Program.
Kaderavek said: “Qualifying as a supplier can take 12 months or so but is an essential step to a long-term project/offtake partnership.
“From an equipment processing point of view the manufacture of cobalt sulphate from this point is not considered demanding, however, purity remains paramount, and we will be dispatching our cobalt sulphate at the end of the BHCP Global Sample Partner Program.
“As a reminder over 90% of samples requested by our more than 30 sample partners were for MHP.
“Our achievements have not gone unnoticed, with further sample arrangements struck, and discussions now increasingly tilting towards Demonstration Plant scale samples that will follow.”
Sample program on track
He said in line with earlier guidance, COB expected to finish the entire sample program over the next weeks and would report a program summary upon completion and the overall specifications of each of the two categories of product despatched.
“I would like to thank the people of Broken Hill for their support of our project to date. The talent and eagerness of the local BHCP team are plain to see and indicative of a strong pool of talent that the project will draw upon in years to come.
“COB has a promising future with significant milestones expected to be achieved over the next couple of years,” he added.
Story by ProactiveInvestors
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