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COBALT: Price drop puts brakes on Fortune’s NICO project



Underground bulk sample tests at NICO have confirmed the process, recoveries, and product qualities. (Image: Fortune Minerals)

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES – The recent fall-off of the cobalt price has Fortune Minerals thinking it will stick with the smaller proposed NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project 160 km northwest of Yellowknife. In 2014, a feasibility study suggested a mine and concentrator to treat 4,650 tonnes of ore per day.

Strong projected cobalt demand encouraged the company to update the feasibility study with a 6,000-t/d concentrator. On Oct. 3, the company said it was abandoning the idea of a larger capacity plant. The decision was made in light of the falling price of cobalt.

Said Fortune president and CEO Robin Goad, “An environment that has seen curtailment from the world’s largest cobalt mines is not conducive for an expanded, capital intensive project at this time.”

Cobalt prices had a strong run-up in 2018 as the battery industry looked to be growing and the number of electric vehicles increased around the world. Since the beginning of this year, the cobalt price has been softening to about US$16 per lb. That is a steep decline of about 24% from the US$21/lb. price in January 2019.

Fortune plans to complete an updated technical report based on the smaller, higher grade NICO project. A number of de-risking options are being studied – reducing reliance on underground mining, optimizing the open pit, right-size the mining equipment for the lower rate, find another North American cobalt miner with which to share a refinery, or realign the development schedule to coincide with an expected shortfall of cobalt in 2022-23.

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