The Broken Hill Cobalt Project (Cobalt Blue Holdings) showcased its metallurgical processing plant on Thursday to celebrate the transition of its pilot plant into a stable demonstration plant.
The Board of Directors said this is a critical step in taking Broken Hill Cobalt to the world and to eventually power 5 million electric vehicles.
Cobalt Blue Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaderavek said that leaving the world in a better place is a key aim for governments and businesses globally.
“A key part of that transition is investment in battery materials and cobalt is a critical mineral in that transition,” he said.
“Our goals in Broken Hill are extremely ambitious. So much so that no other operation in the western world attempts to do what we want to do here. Which is to make high-value cobalt products in an integrated mine, refinery approach.”
Cobalt Blue Executive Manager Dr Andrew Tong said that there is huge interest in this project from a geopolitical perspective as it differs from the current cobalt supply coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The Congo has the highest in ground grade of cobalt to anywhere else in the world.”
“As a developing country, it has low governance structures around mining processes. This creates very poor environmental and social constraints around how to develop these assets.”
By processing chemicals in Broken Hill, Dr Tong said that the overall supply chain will have huge advantages for Australia in the long term.
“If we just made concentrate, the only buyers would be China,” he said.
“On the supply chain that cobalt would just go into China and the geopolitics of that is problematic.
“By taking refining that is normally done for Cobalt in China and doing it here, that changes the supply chain for the battery network,” he said.
“We do the mining, we make the concentrate, and we do the chemical processing and end up with a highly purified chemically attractive cobalt product that can go straight to the battery supply chain.”
Mr Tong said that as the world races to adopt green energy technologies in the fight against climate change, cobalt is in demand like never before.
“Electric vehicle sales predicted to surge from 6.5 million in 2021 to 66 million by 2040, the world’s appetite for the metal is only growing.”
Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University and a Director of ZEN Energy, Ross Garnaut, said that if Australia can make use of its best assets in the emerging zero-emissions economy, it can secure huge economic advantages long into the future.
“The advantages are greatest in rural and provincial Australia, including the Broken Hill region.”
“If we make good use of them, we can secure full employment and rising incomes for Australians, beyond anything known in the past.”
Professor Garnaut said that in the zero-emissions economy, the old mining centres of Australia contain many of the assets natural assets, including the “critical minerals” needed to power the future global economy.
“The Broken Hill region not only has advantages in mining some critical minerals, the rich wind and solar resources can also make sure that they are processed nearby, using the skills and infrastructure that have accumulated over nearly one and a half centuries.”
“The world will need huge quantities of metal to build the wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles, and other equipment to make the zero-emissions economy.
“These include copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, vanadium, silicon, and many others,” he said
“They are scarce globally and have come to be known as “critical minerals”.
“Sometimes in waste dumps from old mining, and sometimes as new deposits.”
Broken Hill City Council Waste & Sustainability Manager Kathy Graham said that there has been a lot of desire from within Broken Hill to become more sustainable and take steps towards a renewable energy plan.
“We cannot wait for the Federal Government to support us in those roles. Broken Hill needs to lead and push these initiatives.”
“Whether it is through mining, hydrogen, solar, wind, Broken Hill is placed in a prime position to be involved and be a part of the leaders in the field.”
Ms Graham said that Council had held a series of renewable energy workshops last week that aimed to open conversations to the public for ideas to reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels.
“We have solar farms, we have wind farms, and we have a lot of interest for some really exciting projects coming up, so as a city, it is in our best interest to be exploring that.”