Renewed demand for cobalt, the metal, is breathing new life into Cobalt, the town.
Ironically, Cobalt, Ontario—population 1,100—was built on silver. Remnants of a boom that transformed the town more than a century ago are everywhere. A mine headframe still protrudes from the roof of the bookstore, which was previously a grocery.
The butcher used to toss unwanted bones down an abandoned 350-foot shaft in the middle of the shop floor and keep meat cool in its lowered mine cage.
While the last silver mines closed almost 30 years ago, a global push for the village’s namesake metal is promising to breathe new life into the sleepy town 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Toronto.
The whitish element (which “blooms” pink when exposed to air) was initially ignored by the area’s prospectors and later mined mainly as a by-product of silver. Now, global demand for cobalt, a component in batteries used to power electric cars for automakers from Tesla Inc. to Volkswagen AG, is changing the game.
Call it a cobalt rush in Cobalt. “This area’s seen more airborne surveys in the last year than in the last hundred,” said Gino Chitaroni, a local prospector and geologist. “Two years ago, if you had a cobalt property you couldn’t give it away. All of a sudden, within six months, everything changed.”
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