Prospecting for … cobalt – by Staff (Mining Journal – October 2, 2016)

Believers in an impending cobalt shortage, higher prices, and the need for supply sources that are disengaged from primary copper or nickel production – and “unethical supply chains” – don’t see many new cobalt mines on the horizon. Prospecting is certainly on the rise, but when place-names such as Cobalt (Ontario) and Mt Cobalt (Queensland) don’t help, you know the job ain’t easy!

Cobalt has been called Canada’s forgotten mining town, but the records show the focus of an unprecedented silver prospecting and mining boom in the early 1900s delivered a fortune that “far surpassed the Klondike in terms of profits, production, and long-term impact”, wrote one historian.

“The early history of hard rock mining in Ontario is essentially the story of the discovery of silver in Cobalt in 1903. It wasn’t long before the Cobalt mines became the third-largest producer of silver in the world and by the time the boom petered out in the 1920s, the camp had become the fourth-largest silver producer ever discovered,” he continued.

No surprises then that Cobalt has – and is even now – a magnet for firms hunting for vestiges of the district’s semi-famous silver lodes. Cobalt? Not so much, even though the mineral did make a useful appearance after the silver boom died and the town faced ruin.

“The solution was at hand and Cobalt found its salvation in the mineral for which the town was named – the mineral which, mixed with the silver ore had been only a nuisance, making the smelting and refining operations much more difficult. Science, the threat of war, and improving technology all had a part in Cobalt’s revival. The mineral cobalt, long used in the form of an oxide in the ceramic industries, now found a host of other uses.”

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