eCobalt Solutions Inc. ("eCobalt" or "the Company") (TSX: ECS, OTCQX: ECSIF, FRA: ECO) is pleased to provide an update on the status of the Optimized Feasibility Study ("OFS") and on progress of project financing for the Company's 100% owned Idaho Cobalt Project ("ICP"), located near the town of Salmon, in the heart of the Idaho Cobalt Belt. The ICP remains the sole, near-term environmentally permitted primary cobalt deposit in the United States.
Optimized Feasibility Study Update
Metallurgical optimization testing continues on ore material from the ICP's Ram deposit with over 8 tons of ore used to advance this test work. As previously disclosed, laboratory-scale testing successfully demonstrated that ICP ore was amenable to arsenic ("As") removal from concentrates by conventional roasting methods, in line with the Company's direction to produce a clean (low arsenic content) cobalt concentrate product, an upstream precursor material for battery cathode production. Pilot level testing typically follows laboratory and bench scale test work on a feasibility level to reduce risk and add confidence in the final design of processing equipment.
The initial flowsheet that was tested used a fluidized bed roaster, the traditional method to remove arsenic from metal concentrates by roasting, to reduce the arsenic level in the concentrate to less than 0.5%, the level required by many smelters. Several pilot runs were executed at varying temperatures, oxygen content and durations. Results from these tests directed process engineers to replace the fluidized bed with a rotary kiln to maximize recovery of cobalt and sequestering of arsenic in a vitrified matrix. The mineralogy of ore from the Ram deposit has proven more amenable to a rotary kiln design as it is less vulnerable to adverse effects from changes in material properties of the concentrate during the roasting process. This current test work, utilizing a rotary kiln with a controlled atmosphere, achieved the target product, a low arsenic concentrate produced from ICP ore. Bench scale rotary kiln tests are currently in progress to define optimum process parameters for consistently achieving the <0.5% As target.
Bench scale tests utilizing a rotary kiln, conducted by Expert Processing Solutions (XPS), have demonstrated that a 0.2% residual arsenic content in concentrate is achievable. Additional testing has been recommended. This work will define conditions for pilot level roasting of the ICP ore in the third quarter with the goal to produce a clean, low arsenic, high value cobalt-copper-gold concentrate. Results of the pilot test work will determine the final detailed design and procurement of the critical process equipment.
Changes to the roasting portion of the flowsheet are required to accommodate the changing geometry and infrastructure required to support the new roasting method. While these processing changes are not anticipated to have a material effect on the capital or operating costs of a roasting facility, they do require time to be developed to a feasibility level of confidence. Delivery of the OFS is now expected in the third quarter of this year. The current project schedule is expected to be maintained through advancement of civil construction while the concentrate refining flowsheet is updated for the OFS. The Company's target date for commercial production remains the H1 2020. The Company will continue to provide updates as available.
Project Finance and Off-take
Significant progress has been made on project finance and off-take arrangements. With positive long-term fundamentals for cobalt demand, the advanced nature of the ICP, and location in a geopolitically stable jurisdiction with production that is clean and traceable, the interest in off-take for the ICP's future cobalt concentrate production has been strong. The demand has come from a variety of parties including traders, producers and end users in the battery and non-battery space. The ICP's cobalt concentrate is unique compared to standard cobalt concentrates where cobalt comes as a by-product to other commodities. This has generated long-term partnership opportunities with counterparties for whom the Company's product complements their existing refining capabilities and needs. As such, the Company has been undertaking a thorough evaluation to ensure that the right long-term partner(s) are identified.
The Company has also received preliminary project finance term sheets from multiple counterparties including strategic investors, private equity lenders, fixed income securities and commercial banks to finance the capital requirements of the ICP. These preliminary term sheets have been evaluated by the Company and will be updated with counterparties in conjunction with the advancement of the OFS. The Company's finance decision will be based on cost of capital, flexibility, execution risks and timing to ensure that the project is fully financed with a structure that delivers the best value to the shareholders of the Company.
E.R. (Rick) Honsinger, P.Geo., Senior V.P. with eCobalt, is the Qualified Person who has reviewed and approved the contents of this news release.
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