Cobalt project gains momentum
Wednesday, 30th December, 2020
By Myles Burt
The Broken Hill Cobalt Project has begun constructing a demonstration plant on Kanandah Road, as they move into their first stage of development.
The demonstration plant will be taking raw ore from cobalt deposits 23kms west of Broken Hill, where it will be processed into battery ready Cobalt Sulphate.
Demonstration Plant manager Adam Randall said the aim of the demonstration plant is to generate large samples of Cobalt Sulphate, that can then be sent off to producers who will trial their product in their battery manufacturing.
“Cobalt Sulphate is one of the precursor products that goes into manufacturing batteries,” Mr Randall said.
“Cars, Tesla powerwall, right up to huge battery storage technology.”
A world first, Cobalt Blue CEO Joe Kaderavek said the demonstration plant will be later expanded into a refinery, allowing Cobalt Blue to mine and refine directly in Broken Hill to achieve a final product without any third party processing.
Mr Kaderavek said although they’re not the first to invent these processes, but will be the first to be producing Cobalt Sulphate from start to finish.
Mr Kaderavek said 80 per cent of the world’s cobalt is exported to China were it’s then made into a battery ready product.
Mr Kaderavek said with Cobalt Sulphate on the critical mineral list for most countries, having 80 percent of it needing to be shipping into China is an issue being that one country has too much power in the supply chain.
Mr Kaderavek said their combination of mining and refining allows them bypass this issue and produce an ethical product with a clear chain of custody for international producers.
“It avoids all of that refining where you get a lot of unethical sources contaminating the broader mix,” Mr Kaderavek said.
“Mined in Broken Hill, refined in Broken Hill, and shipped directly to California, Germany, South Korea, wherever the battery plant is.
“It also means that the Western World gets more control and that’s important, because you don’t want to be beholden to one country or the other who has such a monopoly on this critical mineral.”
Mr Kaderavek said the Broken Hill Cobalt Project will raise Australia to become the 5th largest global producer of cobalt, with the Broken Hill operations set to be in the top 10 biggest in the world.
Mr Randall said the project mining sites contains 123Mt (million tonnes) of resources through current studies.
Mr Randall said that statistical has increased the lifespan of the mine to around 17 plus years, hoping that with more data that it will extend the mine life to 20 plus.
Mr Randall said not only will the operation be exporting their primary product of Cobalt Sulphate but also Elemental Sulphur, which will be generated as a bi-product through the refining process and can be used for industrial and agricultural purposes.
Mr Randall said having Elemental Sulphur as an option could prove very profitable in the Australian market.
“For example at the moment there’s another mine in South Australia and they currently import about a million tonnes per annum of Elemental Sulphur from Canada,” Mr Randall said.
“There’s quite a clear potential opportunity and potential conversation in future where instead of that mine importing material we may be able to offer them a locally produced alternative.”
Under these factors, Mr Randall said the Broken Hill Cobalt Project is set to be very exciting with massive potential to create economic ripples in the Broken Hill community.
Mr Randall said the project will generate jobs in the hundreds and require a number of workers to relocate their families to Broken Hill.
“It’s very exciting not only for us but for Broken Hill,” Mr Randall said.
Mr Kaderavek said through their mining and process innovations, local support and the positive trend of finding more resources within their mine sites has made the project very fulfilling.
Mr Kaderavek said especially since four years ago they were looking at a fairly old resource that’s been around since the 60s.
“The industry has been around believe it or not for about 80 years, and a lot of those DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) operations have been around 20 to 30 or more years in some cases,” Mr Kaderavek said.
“But because there’s a huge trend now to use cobalt, particularly for such a good, positive future in terms of batteries, it’s a very satisfying backdrop.
“We’re absolutely the new boy on the block and we’re going to shake it up a bit.”