Fortunate locale for Nico cobalt refinery
Alberta's Industrial Heartland provides multiple advantages Metal Tech News – January 26, 2022
Last updated 4/21/2022 at 5:16am
Alberta has been chosen as the best locale to develop a critical minerals refinery that would process concentrates from Fortune Minerals Ltd.'s planned Nico cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper mine in Canada's Northwest Territories.
A mine at Nico and an associated hydrometallurgical refinery in a Canadian province would produce an average of 1,800 metric tons of battery-grade cobalt sulfate; 1,700 metric tons of bismuth; 300 metric tons of copper; and 47,000 ounces of gold annually over the first 14 years of mining.
This mix of critical, precious, and base metals may be an intriguing prospect for those wanting to see more cobalt mined and refined in North America.
Fortune has been seeking a suitable location to develop the hydrometallurgical refinery needed to upgrade the concentrates produced at a future Nico mine into the cobalt sulfate required for the lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles. The bismuth, copper, and gold also produced is expected to more than pay for the costs of producing the battery-grade cobalt.
Fortune's search has turned up what might be the ideal site for the proposed refinery due to its proximity to the Nico mine, the industrial nature of the locale, the infrastructure already in place, and the government support for its plans to build a critical minerals refinery.
This site is the previous home of a steel fabrication plant northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.
Fortune has signed an agreement to purchase this former industrial site from JFSL Field Services ULC, a subsidiary of a large international engineering company. Pursuant to the agreement, Fortune will have six months to carry out additional due diligence and complete the purchase of the JFSL facility for C$5.5 million.
The JFSL facility is situated on 76.78 acres of land adjacent to the Canadian National Railway in Alberta's Industrial Heartland, an association of five municipalities northeast of Edmonton with planning approvals and tax incentives designed to attract heavy industry. This former steel fabrication plant includes site improvements and more than 40,000 square feet of serviced shops and buildings that are anticipated to materially reduce the costs of developing the refinery.
Alberta's Industrial Heartland looks forward to having the former steel fabrication facility repurposed for producing metals critical to the transition to low-carbon transportation and energy.
"The planned Nico project in Alberta's Industrial Heartland supports our region's robust diversification efforts and highlights our value proposition for companies looking to execute their capital growth strategies, develop new technologies and advance their ESG priorities," said Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association Executive Director Mark Plamondon. "Fortune Minerals' innovative vision and metallurgical process technology for the Nico refinery will promote further energy supply chain integration within North America, solidifying Alberta and Alberta's Industrial Heartland as a critical jurisdiction for Canada's energy future."
In addition to support at the municipal level, Fortune's plans to develop a critical minerals refinery in Alberta is being endorsed at the provincial level.
"Cobalt, lithium and nickel are all minerals with huge demand in the modern world. Fortune's new refinery is exactly the type of job creating, diversifying investment we envisioned with our mineral strategy and action plan," said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
"Alberta's mineral strategy and action plan capitalizes on our untapped potential and helps meet demand for the critical and rare earth minerals which are essential to supporting a low-carbon economy," added Albert Minister of Energy Sonya Savage. "Fortune Minerals' investment announcement demonstrates that our strategy is working. Our province has the experienced workforce, and the necessary infrastructure to support continued growth in the minerals sector, and there is no better place for a new critical minerals refinery than Alberta's Industrial Heartland,"
Fortune has previously been issued the approvals that allow the development of a mine at Nico, and with the recent completion of the 97-kilometer (60 miles), the cobalt-bismuth-copper-gold mine is within about 45 kilometers (28 kilometers) of road and rail infrastructure linking the planned Northwest Territories mine and what is looking like an ideal location to build the critical minerals refinery.
The establishment of the refinery in Alberta's Industrial Heartland could attract further economic opportunities to this region, including the establishment of a battery materials recycling facility associated with the Nico refinery and the attraction of additional investments from lithium battery and electric vehicle manufacturers to this advantageous region.
"More economic growth and diversification in Alberta's energy and tech sectors shows our competitive edge in action. This includes access to highly skilled labor, resources, and transportation links from Alberta's globally recognized Industrial Heartland and combined with our business-friendly environment thanks to the Alberta tax advantage and a streamlined regulatory framework," said Invest Alberta Corporation CEO Rick Christiaanse.