First Cobalt produces battery-grade cobalt sulphate

For the second time, First Cobalt announced that it has produced battery-grade cobalt sulphate, highlighting the ability of the flowsheet at its hydrometallugical refinery to treat different feedstocks.

The latest product, at 21.4% cobalt and with over 99.9% purity, exceeds the 20.5% cobalt reference grade for sulphate pricing and is derived from a cobalt alloy. Additional process adjustments are possible to meet offtake partner requirements.

Previously, in 2019, the company produced battery-grade cobalt sulphate at 20.8% cobalt, with over 99.9% purity, from a cobalt hydroxide feed

Previously, in 2019, the company produced battery-grade cobalt sulphate at 20.8% cobalt, with over 99.9% purity, from a cobalt hydroxide feed.

“This is an excellent result. There were no surprises from this latest round of metallurgical testing and the few impurities remaining in the cobalt sulphate product were in line with expectations given the test process we followed,” Trent Mell, the company’s president and CEO, said in a release.

“Once we have settled on buyers for the product, we are confident that we can make a sulphate product that will meet the quality requirements of their batteries.”

Mell also added that the spread of covid-19 is not expected to impact the company’s strategic plans with a definitive agreement signed in August of 2019 with Glencore, which includes a framework for a fully funded and phased approach to recommissioning and expanding First Cobalt’s refinery in Ontario.

A feasibility study for an expansion of the refinery is in its final stages and is expected at the end of April.

The final decision as to whether put the facility back into production is dependent on the outcome of the study as well as the completion of a long-term feed supply agreement with Glencore.

The First Cobalt refinery is the only primary cobalt refinery in North America.

In September, First Cobalt started two engineering studies: a prefeasibility on restarting the refinery at its current 12 t/d capacity as well as a feasibility study on a capacity expansion to 55 t/d.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

Ironveld share price skyrockets 93% following IIG partnership announcement

Exploration and development company Ironveld’s share price on the LSE skyrocketed by over 93% following its announcement on March 30 that it would be entering a new strategic partnership with Inclusive Investment Group (IIG) to raise about £2.7-million. The partnership marks a significant milestone that would allow Ironveld to begin Phase 1 of bringing its high-purity iron, vanadium and titanium project, located on the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Complex in South Africa, into development, CEO Martin Eales said in a statement.

Zen scales up graphene production

Zen Graphene Solutions (TSXV: ZEN) announced that it has started to scale-up and engineer studies on processes for the manufacturing of products based on its trademarked Albany Pure Graphene.

According to Zen, the priority is to increase graphene production at its development facility in the Canadian city of Guelph, in anticipation of future demand. 

Zen said its research and engineering team will also be developing and testing custom functionalized graphene formulations as requested by industrial collaborators

“Zen’s graphene products will now all have the Albany Pure seal of authenticity which represents that the material was sourced from unique Albany graphite and meets the company’s high-quality standards,” the Thunder Bay-based company said in a media statement.

Albany is a microcrystalline deposit located in northeastern Ontario. The mine produces low-cost, environmentally-friendly graphene.

Zen said that it will also commission a recently purchased purification autoclave to commence the production of high-purity graphene precursor material.

In terms of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm said it has reviewed operational expenses and eliminated non-core expenditures to ensure that scaled-up graphene production can move forward while management remains focused on developing industrial partnerships.

Zen scales up graphene production

Zen Graphene Solutions (TSXV: ZEN) announced that it has started to scale-up and engineer studies on processes for the manufacturing of products based on its trademarked Albany Pure Graphene.

According to Zen, the priority is to increase graphene production at its development facility in the Canadian city of Guelph, in anticipation of future demand. 

Zen said its research and engineering team will also be developing and testing custom functionalized graphene formulations as requested by industrial collaborators

“Zen’s graphene products will now all have the Albany Pure seal of authenticity which represents that the material was sourced from unique Albany graphite and meets the company’s high-quality standards,” the Thunder Bay-based company said in a media statement.

Albany is a microcrystalline deposit located in northeastern Ontario. The mine produces low-cost, environmentally-friendly graphene.

Zen said that it will also commission a recently purchased purification autoclave to commence the production of high-purity graphene precursor material.

In terms of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm said it has reviewed operational expenses and eliminated non-core expenditures to ensure that scaled-up graphene production can move forward while management remains focused on developing industrial partnerships.

Syrah suspends Louisiana operations

Syrah Resources (ASX: SYR) announced on Tuesday that will suspend its Battery Anode Material plant in Vidalia, Louisiana, to assess and manage potential operational risks from covid-19.

According to the company, this will delay the distribution of purified natural graphite samples for qualification with potential customers.

The Balama graphite operation in Mozambique remains operational.

Syrah produced over 100,000 tonnes of natural graphite in 2018. Balama is the largest and first major new natural graphite operation developed outside of China.

Rutile identified as the carrier of vanadium at Eurobattery Minerals’ project

Eurobattery Minerals AB announced that researchers working at Fetsjön project in Sweden have identified rutile as the carrier of vanadium recovered in the bedrock of the prospect area.

“Even if early results, it’s encouraging to see that the scientists have now identified the carrier of the vanadium in our prospecting area in northern Sweden,” Roberto García Martínez, CEO of Eurobattery Minerals, said in a media statement. “In order to provide ethical and fully traceable minerals and support the electric revolution, it is important that all stakeholders collaborate.”

The scientists conducted both field studies and microprobe analyses of material from the Fetsjön project

Back in December, the Stockholm-based company signed an agreement with Uppsala University in Sweden and AGH University of Science & Technology in Poland, whose researchers have been given the task of testing new more efficient and cost-effective methods to obtain battery minerals. These techniques are expected to complement currently used technologies.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurobattery Minerals said that the research project continues in accordance with the plan and that the next step is to initiate tests on sustainable ways to extract vanadium from rutile. 

The firm also said its vision is to help Europe become self-sufficient in ethical battery minerals.

Northern Graphite secures financing on Bissett Creek project

Northern Graphite (TSXV: NGC) announced that it will sell a 1% gross revenue royalty on its Bissett Creek project to Electric Royalties for $500,000 in cash and 2 million common shares of ERL.

Under the terms of the agreement, ERL also has a 2-year option to acquire an additional half of 1% GRR by paying $750,000, of which 25% can be paid in ERL shares. Northern, on the other hand, has the option to buy back half of 1% of the initial GRR at any time after 12 months by returning the consideration shares or paying $1.5 million in cash.

“Bissett Creek is a high margin project and the sale of a small royalty has very little effect on its economics,” Gregory Bowes, Northern CEO, said in a media statement. “The proceeds will provide a non-dilutive source of liquidity that will enable the company to continue waiting for a turnaround in graphite prices which it believes will come even if automobile manufacturers are only modestly successful at achieving their stated fleet electrification goals.”

Bissett Creek is an advanced stage project with a full feasibility study and a preliminary economic assessment. The property is located between the cities of Ottawa and North Bay in Ontario, Canada.

Germany wants to mass produce large-format lithium-ion cells

Researchers from Germany’s Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg, known by its initials ZSW, just launched the ZellkoBatt, a project aimed at optimizing large-format lithium-ion cells for automotive applications, while cutting the costs of components as well as manufacturing processes.

In a press release, the scientists said they will apply the results of their efforts to ZSW’s pilot production line, a research lab that has been up and running since 2014 under factory-like conditions. The resultant machines and processes will then be ramped up for mass manufacturing. 

 The German Ministry of Education and Research is funding the project with €12.7 million over two years

The idea is to build bridges between working prototypes and industrial mass manufacturing in domestic factories.

“Electric mobility is going to significantly change the automotive supplier industry,” Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens, who heads accumulator research at ZSW, said in a statement. “We have to do everything in our power to fast-track the development and production of battery systems to future-proof Germany as an auto-making nation.

With the ZellkoBatt project, we are extending our technological infrastructure to accelerate the transfer of innovative battery cells to industrial mass manufacturing.”

According to Wohlfahrt-Mehrens, the project should help the country move beyond pilot manufacturing lines and small production runs, establish manufacturing capacity and meet the growing demand for batteries, particularly taking into account that the government has set the goal of increasing the electric vehicle count to up to 10 million by 2030. 

Vanadium-carrying mineral confirmed at Sweden prospecting area

European battery metals developer Eurobattery Minerals discovered a certain type of the mineral rutile as part of analysis carried out on thin section cuts from drill core samples from its prospecting site in Fetsjön, Västerbotten, in northern Sweden. The developer claims that scientists have concluded that rutile is the carrier of vanadium.

Lithium Americas suspends Argentina construction

Lithium Americas (TSX: LAC, NYSE: LAC) announced on Friday that construction activities at the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in Jujuy, Argentina, are temporarily suspended, in accordance with government-mandated restrictions in response to Covid-19.

On March 19, the government of Argentina enacted the Urgency Decree, ordering, among other provisions, a national mandatory quarantine effective from March 20 until March 31.

No employees are currently infected with Covid-19    

The project will be placed on care and maintenance. No employees are currently identified as infected with Covid-19, the company said.  

“We are in the process of safely demobilizing the over 1,000 person construction workforce in support of the government of Argentina’s measures to control the spread of Covid-19,” said chief executive Jon Evans.

“Our development of this world-class lithium project is well advanced and we would expect to be able to resume construction once the suspension is lifted,” Evans added.

The suspension of construction may impact the company’s previous estimate for completion of construction by early 2021, it said. At the end of February, construction of the 40 000 t/d battery-quality lithium carbonate project was about 36% complete.