COBALT – Renewed interest in the historic Cobalt Camp mining site is reason for “cautious optimism,” according to this small town’s mayor. But Tina Sartoretto warns against “full-throttle optimism.”
“You can easily be over zealous,” says Sartoretto, who has been mayor since 2010. Over the past few months, prospectors, surveyors, drilling crews and others have descended on the region that stretches from just across the Quebec border to as far west as Espanola. But Cobalt is at the heart of the attention.
“It’s not like the heyday,” Sartoretto admits. “We had the stock exchange, we had banks, hotels, restaurants . . .” The years have been tough on this old town. The population now, according to the 2016 national census, is 1,118 people. The stock market is long gone, as are the banks.
There is one restaurant in the town, but it closes early most days, even though, Sartoretto says, it has seen an increase in the number of patrons stopping in. “Mining people,” she says.
Cobalt, the Town Silver Built, may have a new lease on life as the mineral it was named for has taken centre stage. “People are talking about cobalt,” Sartoretto says. Cobalt is an essential mineral used in batteries. Currently half of the world’s cobalt production comes from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the 100-plus years of silver mining in Cobalt, the mineral was rarely tracked by the mines that operated here. But as the price has shot up over the past few years – it stood this week at about $27 a pound – mining companies have come back here to take another look at it.
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