- First Cobalt’s exploration program at the Cobalt Camp has yielded impressive results, with high grade cobalt and nickel confirmed at the historic Bellellen mine
- Company controls 50 historic mining operations in the popular Ontario camp
- Canada’s cobalt exploration epicenter may eliminate ‘conflict minerals’ supply need
First Cobalt Corp. (TSX.V: FCC) (OTCQB: FTSSF), the largest land owner in Ontario, Canada’s reborn Cobalt Camp mining district, continues to investigate the possibility of a tech-friendly resource boom driven by exploration far from the controversial mineral fields of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where more of the world’s supply of cobalt is currently produced than at all other sources (http://ibn.fm/bY93B). The DRC sites remain highly controversial, drawing as they do on child labor and the manipulation of questionable political ethics.
Cobalt has become a critical element in the operation of the lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, which are becoming an in-demand alternative to the petroleum-based pollutants fueling the world’s automobile industries, as well as in other electronic devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones. Although the 7,300 metric tons of cobalt produced in Canada during 2016 pale in comparison to the 66,000 metric tons produced in the DRC that year, the potential for a revitalized cobalt production industry at North American sites including First Cobalt’s Ontario properties is generating excitement among a number of prospectors looking for ethical alternatives to African ‘conflict minerals’.
“Our own little property itself that we have right now that we’re focused on could produce enough cobalt to supply the gigafactory that Elon Musk is building today,” First Cobalt president and chief executive officer Trent Mell told CBS News in 2017 in reference to automaker Tesla’s plans to roll out half a million Model 3s each year beginning in 2018 (http://ibn.fm/UtnnZ).
First Cobalt controls 50 historic mining operations across the Cobalt Camp on over 10,000 hectares (24,710.54 acres) of land for prospecting. The company is working to increase its understanding of the bulk-grade characteristics of the materials on its properties and apply that understanding to the potential processing of ores from the Cobalt Camp sites. Its exploration program is returning positive results, with the presence of high-grade cobalt and nickel already confirmed at the historic Bellellen mine, where drilling began in January 2018. The Bellellen findings follow other positive results reported at the Juno mine in Cobalt North, the Woods and Watson veins in the southern part of Camp Cobalt and the Keeley-Frontier mine in Cobalt South over the last few months.
“First assays from Bellellen drilling confirm the grades found in muckpile material sampled in 2017 and support our view that we now have a third area of interest in the Cobalt Camp. The Bellellen structure has adequate strike length to remain a priority target. Our 2018 drill strategy is to test several new target areas to confirm the cobalt grades of known systems throughout the Camp and then focus on those of sufficient size to support large tonnage operations,” Mell said in a company press release (http://ibn.fm/GlFIB).
On January 16, 2018, First Cobalt also launched a C$7 million exploration program for 2018, which consists of 26,500 meters of drilling at 13 different targets, aside from Keeley-Frontier and Bellellen (http://ibn.fm/Kl2ut). The program significantly expands on the company’s exploration activities in 2017, with the goal of testing various mineralized areas and different geological settings across the Cobalt Camp, including the near-surface potential of certain areas that have never been assessed for their global content before, Mell explained.
The reported results seem to back Mell’s optimism for the company property’s potential, especially amid predictions that, in another decade, the DRC will no longer be such an overwhelmingly significant player in the global tech mineral rush as the country’s human rights violations are in the spotlight.
Congressional hearings on the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act in April 2017 included Human Rights Watch representatives detailing the murder, rape, forced child labor and otherwise destructive practices pursued by several armed privateer groups, foreign-backed rebels and, at times, the DRC’s army itself in relation to mining activities the groups used to fund themselves. Gold mining operations have been the primary focus of those groups, but cobalt’s rising star has created a new emphasis on the mineral once regarded as little more than a byproduct of exploration. (http://ibn.fm/R0Y3Z). “Never in the history of modern mining have you seen cobalt as a primary focus for us miners,” Mell told CBS News. “It was an after-thought.”
The CBS News report acknowledges the challenges of producing sufficient cobalt and other minerals to meet the expected rise in demand for increased electric vehicle production, primarily driven by China and Europe. However, sustainable and responsible cobalt investments and mining assets such as First Cobalt’s are likely to cover a significant part of global demand in the near future. First Cobalt’s focus on expanding its exploration program, with the goal of producing more than the 7,800 tons of cobalt required to supply Tesla’s factory and Model 3 roll-out, could help position the company as a leading provider of cobalt worldwide, as well as build shareholder value via new growth and discovery opportunities.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.FirstCobalt.com
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