After failing to find the motherlode, First Cobalt reinvents itself as a battery metal middle man – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – November 20, 2021)

In early 2018, Trent Mell, chief executive of Toronto-based First Cobalt Corp., was riding high on hopes that his company would discover a motherlode of cobalt in North America — a key component in the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries.

Nearly three-quarters of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, much of which comes from small-scale and artisanal mines, where the use of child labour, dangerous working conditions and other human rights abuses have been well-documented.

Mell’s strategy was clear. Corporations were concerned about the risks of sourcing cobalt from the DRC, and many investors, anticipating a surge in electric vehicle sales, believed demand for cobalt would surge, and that a North American supply of the metal could fetch a premium.

Connecting both, Mell hoped to create a North American supply of cobalt that corporations eager to be rid of human rights issues would covet. His company embarked on a multimillion dollar “maiden” exploration campaign to suss out whether there was any cobalt in and around Cobalt, Ontario — an old silver mining camp that boomed at the turn of the last century.

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