Jervois Suspends Construction at ICO

The ICO concentrator (above) was ready for commissioning when Jervois decided to suspend operations.
(Photo: Jervois)
Jervois Global Ltd. said it has suspended final construction and full concentrator commissioning at its Idaho Cobalt Operations mine (ICO) in Idaho, USA, due to continuing low cobalt prices and inflationary impacts on construction costs. The company said it believes cobalt prices and demand will eventually improve. It also expects Western cobalt purchasers will increasingly prefer cobalt from sources with Western ESG credentials, particularly given the concentration of supply from the Democratic Republic of Congo and China.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has advised Jervois that it intends to award it an immediate need for Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III with $15 million of funding. Jervois applied for the DoD award monies to accelerate its drilling aimed at increasing the ICO mineral resource and reserve, and for studies to assess construction of a U.S. cobalt refinery; both can proceed despite ICO’s suspension. Jervois said it views the DoD’s intention to issue its award as an indication of the importance to the U.S. Government of securing its cobalt supply chain.

Jervois said it will immediately begin demobilization of construction contractors from ICO’s site, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Total workforce, including contractors, will reduce from approximately 280 to less than 30, which represents a fit-for-purpose workforce to maintain the site in compliance with its regulatory requirements. Where practical, it will look to reassign local ICO employees to the activities to be funded by the DoD award, Jervois said.

Just prior to this announcement, the company had successfully completed water commissioning in the mill and concentrator facilities. Full concentrator commissioning was expected in early Q2 2023. Piping and mechanical work across the site were in the final stages of completion with significant progress over recent months; remaining construction activities were largely electrical and focused on the concentrator and product packaging facilities.

Miners had developed the required ore access headings underground for rampup and transition to full production. During this development phase, Jervois has stored more than 30,000 tons of ore. The construction stage of mine development is complete, with all underground infrastructure facilities ready, including the primary ventilation raise, main shop, explosive magazine, associated fuel services, paste injection holes and sumps, which are operational. The first stope in the ore horizon has been successfully opened, confirming the potential for short-hole, open-stope mining methods where appropriate, potentially lowering mining costs.

As featured in Womp 2023 Vol 04 -