Introduction

Welcome to the Mt Thirsty Cobalt Project, located 20km northwest of Norseman in the southern goldfields of Western Australia.

The project hosts the completely oxidised Mt Thirsty Cobalt Deposit with a JORC (2004) reported Total Resource of 32 million tonnes grading 0.13% cobalt (Co) and 0.56% nickel (Ni).

The project is held by the Mt Thirsty Joint Venture (MTJV) comprising Conico Ltd 50% (ASX: CNJ) (through its wholly owned subsidiary Meteore Metals Pty Ltd) and Barra Resources Ltd 50% (ASX: BAR). In addition to the cobalt deposit, the project also hosts nickel sulphide (Ni-S) mineralisation.

Demand for cobalt looks encouraging as the world becomes more dependent on rechargeable power sources. Cobalt is an important ingredient in most types of lithium-ion batteries. Innovations with portable electronics and electric vehicle design are adding to this surging demand. However, the battery industry is also competing with demand for cobalt from producers of super alloys, aircraft turbines and chemical industries.

Demand is likely to escalate exponentially with battery production; however, supply is uncertain due to:

  • Over 60% of global supply coming from the politically unstable African countries such the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Zambia.
  • Cobalt is largely a by-product of copper and nickel mining and there are an increasing number of mine closures and project deferments due to low commodity prices.

With potential supply constraints and surging demand many commentators see pricing pressure as a likely eventuality.

The undeveloped Mt Thirsty Cobalt Project has a significant JORC (2004) cobalt resource with the potential to have a long mine life. It is close to all necessary infrastructure (rail, road, power, water, and sea port) and, being in a mining orientated state, has the potential to attract a variety of interest.

Over many years the MTJV has assessed a variety of processes that would best fit the economic extraction of a cobalt product from the resource. These have ranged from high capital cost methods targeting nickel, cobalt and manganese to lower capex options focusing on extracting the high grade cobalt with nickel as a by-product. This IM provides a summary of some of the work undertaken.