Like so many mining towns throughout North America, Cobalt, Ontario has seen better days. The silver rush that transformed the modest community, located 300 miles north of Toronto, into a vibrant boomtown during the early 1900s has long since died away.
Today, the sleepy hamlet — some call it a ghost town — still bears scars from those heady, get-rich-quick days. The borough, built atop a honeycomb of abandoned mining tunnels, is not only littered with waste rock and capped mine shafts but also plagued by poverty.
But its fortunes could soon reverse. Cobalt, population 1,100, is poised to flourish once more due to its rich stores of the metal cobalt. Ironically, the town known for its silver was actually named for this shiny, bluish-gray ore. At the time it was mostly ignored. But not anymore.
It turns out cobalt is a key component of batteries that power cellphones, laptops and, increasingly, electric cars. Call it the new gold, a mineral prize that electric car makers like Tesla and tech companies are more than eager to get their hands on, particularly from conflict-free mining regions. Cobalt, Ontario, fits the bill.
Blue pigments made from cobalt (called cobalt blue) have been used for centuries to dye glass, glazes and ceramics, but the element wasn’t formally recognized as a metal until 1730.
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