Cobalt Blue Ltd's (ASX:COB) chief executive officer, Joe Kaderavek, has once again exclusively joined Proactive's Q&A Sessions™ to discuss the next steps in the company's transition to potentially become a top five global producer of cobalt sulphate.
The company is targeting 4,000 tonnes per annum of cobalt production, the largest cobalt mine outside of Africa.
Proactive Investors: Welcome Joe.
Proactive Investors: Hot on the heels of your latest metallurgical breakthrough, can you explain the reasons for your Asian visit.
Joe Kaderavek: Parallel to our significant drilling campaign of over 10,000 metres and bulk testwork on an 800 kilogram sample which is currently being completed, we are conducting a 10 day visit to key Korean and Japanese companies in the lithium ion battery and investment sectors.
Our reasons are threefold, namely:
(1) Understand the evolving specifications of the latest batteries;
(2) Find partners for our high-purity cobalt sulphate acceptance testing program; and
(3) Introduce Cobalt Blue to large trading houses and financial institutions capable of partnering through development.
Proactive Investors: Isn’t it too early to be seeking project partners?
Joe Kaderavek: Not at all.
Assuming the Pre-Feasibility Study due mid 2018 is successful, the company plans to fast track a Bankable Feasibility study for completion in 2019.
Successful financial relationships take time to mature, particularly with partners from different cultures.
Now is the right time for Cobalt Blue to engage.
Proactive Investors: Why are you focussing on high purity/quality cobalt sulphate crystals?
Joe Kaderavek: Our first cobalt sulphate product, as a result of our PFS testwork, is due late 2017.
This is an achievement that only a handful of cobalt developers globally can claim.
However, that’s not good enough.
Lithium ion batteries are not homogenous commodities.
Cobalt Blue is focussed on producing high quality cobalt sulphate crystals capable of supporting high energy density, fast charge, high temperature batteries, which will be the norm in the Electric Vehicles (EVs) of the 2020s.
The industry goal is to produce an EV that has the same range and refill time as an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle.
Market research shows that EV adoption will occur when ownership costs, performance and infrastructure (eg: refill stations) equal those of the ICE market.
Watch this space….
Proactive Investors: You previously mentioned key differences between Thackaringa and other projects, particularly laterite projects, can you elaborate?
Joe Kaderavek: Thackaringa ore is completely different to a laterite deposit.
The ore is essentially 20% pyrite (sulphide) mixed with 80% quartz/feldspar.
The recent breakthrough in using simple and low cost gravity separation technique takes advantage of the difference in weight of pyrite (hosting the cobalt) versus quartz/feldspar.
We only need to process 20% of mined ore (pyrite) in a refinery. So our refinery will be focused on extracting the cobalt from the sulphide.
Put another way, Cobalt Blue will refine a 0.4-0.45% cobalt concentrate, versus 0.1-0.2% ore which is the case for the vast majority of global projects outside of the Congo.
This upgrading is not available to laterites.
Unlike laterites, treating sulphides does not consume large quantities of acid.
Typical consumption for laterites can be 500-1000 kilograms per tonne.
Proactive Investors: Finally, what key milestone news flow should investors look out for heading into, and during, 2018?
Joe Kaderavek: Investors can look forward to updates on the Thackaringa Drilling Program targeting a 40 million tonne Indicated Resource, as well as PFS testwork updates on the remaining parts of our processing.
Looking into 2018, Cobalt Blue is aiming to deliver the upgraded resource by the 1st April 2018 and then shortly thereafter a full PFS by 30 June 2018.
PFS milestones: Metallurgical work be the end of 2017, resource update end March quarter 2018 and then the PFS mid-2018.
Proactive Investors: Thank-you Joe.