This follows the signing of a binding Heads of Agreement (HOA) with its Thackaringa Joint Venture partner this week that will see the JV dissolved, providing COB with full control and continuing management of the project.
The HOA followed productive discussions made possible by an Independent Expert Determination that confirmed COB’s 70% interest in the JV.
In this interview with Proactive, COB’s CEO Joe Kaderavek explains the company’s path forward.
Cobalt Blue recently announced a binding Heads of Agreement (HOA) to acquire 100% ownership of the Broken Hill (Thackaringa) Project. What are the highlights?
CEO: The joint venture partners had always shared a mutual desire to see the project succeed. The recent conclusion of the Independent Expert process provided a catalyst for discussions that culminated in the HOA under which COB now has 100% of the project economics and full legal title. My thanks to all involved for a sensible outcome.
The acquisition is an appropriate time to refresh your corporate strategy, please elaborate.
CEO: The COB Board has approved a two-part strategy for the business:
- The Broken Hill Cobalt Project (BHCP); and
- COB Partnerships, which is the commercialisation of COB proprietary technology.
Sitting in between these business units is the Demonstration Plant which will support metallurgical studies underpinning the upcoming BHCP Feasibility Study as well as support our cooperation test work agreements. To date we have commenced four such domestic test work agreements.
This test work will provide proof of metallurgical concept across a broad range of resources from South Australia, New South Wales to Queensland.
It’s a strategy aimed at simultaneously promoting our project and technology within the global cobalt supply chain.
What are the key milestones for your Broken Hill Cobalt Project?
CEO: Looking ahead, we have reset project targets to include delivery of a feasibility study, project approvals and a Final Investment Decision by early 2022. The approvals process is targeting the submission of an Environmental Impact Statement by late 2021.
COB is aiming to release an updated ore reserve statement in mid-2020. We also intend to build a Demonstration Plant in Broken Hill and we anticipate commissioning a smaller pilot plant by end Q2 2020.
The pilot plant will be modular and can be sized upwards to demonstration scale (1:1,000 to full commercial size) by early 2021.
Our commercial aim remains to make battery-ready cobalt sulphate from this facility on a scale sufficient to provide production samples (150-300 kilograms), from which test batteries can be manufactured and evaluated by our global partners.
The BHCP project area is shown below, complete with the recently announced (August 22, 2019) sizeable extension to our footprint via the granting of EL8891 (100% COB) that added 40% additional acreage to the BHCP project area.
The BHCP development timeline to 2022 is also shown below.
Can you describe the COB Partnerships business?
CEO: COB has successfully developed a processing technology for recovering cobalt from pyrite at the BHCP.
We are excited that other companies are approaching us to evaluate applying our processing technology to their projects.
In addition to the BHCP, COB, therefore, aims to commercialise our processing technology at additional project sites.
From 2020, the BHCP Demonstration Plant will allow COB to test third-party samples in house, from initial test work (typically 10-15 kilograms) to bulk, continuous operations (>1,000 tonnes) capable of supporting the technical requirements of project feasibility studies.
Two of our agreements to date have been with projects in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry district of Queensland.
This is a region with a long history of successful base and precious metal projects. However, often the cobalt has not been recovered into a saleable product from the sulphide minerals as it is commonly associated with arsenic or pyrite.
Our most recent agreement was signed with OZ Minerals Ltd (ASX:OZL), which is scheduled to commission the Carrapateena Copper-Gold Project in South Australia in Q4 2019.
Where does COB see itself within the Australian Battery Industry?
CEO: COB has recently joined the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBI CRC). This is a joint industry/government program that seeks to address challenges and opportunities for battery industry participants.
The FBI CRC builds on the strengths of industry and researchers to generate knowledge that will expand Australia’s competitive advantages, promote research-informed policy options and help build the necessary skills for emerging battery industries.
We look forward to working with strong industry partners facing similar challenges, evolving to meet the global demand of the lithium-ion battery industry.
COB will be taking an active role in the FBI CRC cathode precursor pilot plant, which is aiming to produce cathodes using Australian sourced raw materials.
CEO: Thanks, look forward to updating the market further.