First Cobalt Corp. and Glencore AG have signed a memorandum of understanding to supply cobalt feedstock and financing to recommission the First Cobalt Refinery in Ontario, Canada. First Cobalt and Glencore will collaborate on final flowsheet design to accelerate the restart of North America’s only primary cobalt refinery.

Glencore intends to provide feedstock for the refinery, which is expected to result in annual production of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 metric tons per year (mt/y) of cobalt in sulfate from the refinery.

Glencore will evaluate making a loan to fund the capital requirements to recommission the refinery and will enter into a tolling agreement with First Cobalt.

The refinery could be operational in 18-24 months and discussions are under way with provincial government officials to identify opportunities to streamline and accelerate the permit amendment process.

“The partnership announced today will help First Cobalt achieve its stated objective of providing ethically sourced battery-grade cobalt for the North American electric vehicle market,” First Cobalt President and CEO Trent Mell said. “As the world’s leading producer of cobalt, Glencore is an ideal partner for First Cobalt. Our shareholders will benefit from Glencore financial backing, technical support and opportunities for regional synergies with their Sudbury and Rouyn-Noranda operations.”

This announcement marks the culmination of one year’s work, Mell said.

A final decision on whether to put the First Cobalt Refinery back into production has not been made and any decision is contingent on the outcome of the ongoing discussions and studies.

The First Cobalt Refinery is the only permitted primary cobalt refinery in North America. The company recently completed testing of third-party cobalt hydroxide as a potential source of feed, confirming the existing processes in the First Cobalt Refinery are capable of producing a high-purity, battery-grade cobalt sulfate. With no cobalt sulfate production in North America, the First Cobalt Refinery has the potential to become the first such producer for the American electric vehicle market.

The First Cobalt Refinery is a hydrometallurgical cobalt refinery in the Canadian Cobalt Camp, approximately 600 kilometers from the U.S. border.

A study completed in 2018 by Primero estimated that under a 24-metric-ton-per-day (mt/d) base-case scenario, the refinery could be recommissioned for approximately US$30 million. The study also considers an expansion scenario of up to 50 mt/d within the footprint of the current building structure.