North America’s first cobalt refinery inches closer to production — but obstacles remain – by James Snell (Financial Post – April 11, 2019)

CEO Trent Mell remains optimistic about the refinery’s prospects

First Cobalt Corp., the $50-million company, is inching closer to becoming the first producer of battery-grade cobalt to feed the nascent North American electric vehicle market, but there are still plenty of roadblocks in its way.

The Toronto-based company achieved a breakthrough when it announced earlier this month that it successfully produced battery-grade cobalt sulfate using its refinery’s own processes, or flowsheet, — but the problem is, it was done in a lab using a small sample.

CEO Trent Mell, who is currently in Shanghai meeting with investors at the Fastmarkets MB Battery Materials Conference, remains optimistic about the refinery, which is in the midst of a $30-million refurbishment.

“We’ve had a fair amount of interest in this facility because it’s largely built. Pouring concrete, the roads, the power – it’s all there,” he said. If built, the refinery would help North American consumers of cobalt reduce their dependence on China — the dominant player in cobalt refining.

The company has some credible names on its board, including Henrik Fisker, Danish-American electric vehicle designer, who is a director at the firm.

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