The project would open a new chapter in the quest to build out an electric vehicle supply chain in North America
On Monday, Trent Mell, chief executive of First Cobalt Corp., travelled to his office in downtown Toronto for the first time in weeks to tell the world he hopes to open North America’s first cobalt sulfate refinery — a key metal used in the batteries that power electric vehicles — by the end of the year.
The opening, years in the making, arrives at an awkward moment as social distancing policies keep people out of their cars, and the economic fallout from COVID-19 creates great uncertainty about the demand for electric vehicles, or EVs.
“There’s obviously the immediate pause” on EV adoption, Mell told the Financial Post on Monday.
But he quickly added, “If we electrify our fleet, we could have an immediate impact on the planet in terms of just blue skies. I don’t know how many people like me were taken aback by how quickly the air got clean by keeping everybody home and whether that helps change attitudes.”
His update came as the company released a feasibility study on the economics of operating its proposed cobalt sulfate refinery, and analysts greeted it with enthusiasm but also skepticism. The feasibility study, for example, uses a cobalt price of US$25 per pound, when the current price is below US$17 per pound.