Ontario’s Fortune Minerals Ltd (TSX: FT) and Rio Tinto Ltd (NYSE: RIO) (ASX: RIO) (LON: RIO) have signed a memorandum of understanding and will collaborate to develop cobalt and bismuth recovery technology.
Fortune announced the partnership on Friday and the companies will be conducting testing for the initiative at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott copper mining and smelting operation near Salt Lake City and a proposed concentrate processing facility/refinery in Alberta that Fortune will be constructing in the future.
Fortune says the proposed refinery it will be establishing will process co-product streams of the two metals from Rio Tinto’s copper smelter in Utah. The companies are also working together to investigate different methods of extracting the elements from waste generated by the smelter.
Cobalt and bismuth were included in the list of critical minerals needed for new technologies outlined in the United States and Canada’s Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration established in early 2020.
The refinery will also process concentrates from Fortune’s NICO copper-cobalt-bismuth-gold project in the Northwest Territories. The company plans to build a mill and camp site at the operation and develop an open pit there in the coming years.
“Working with Rio Tinto to recover metals from their co-product streams is part of our corporate strategy to expand production of critical minerals,” said Fortune’s CEO Robin Goad.
In addition to copper, cobalt and bismuth, Rio Tinto’s Kennecott mine also produces gold, silver, molybdenum and tellurium.
Rio Tinto invested US$55 million in the site last September for underground mine development and says Kennecott’s smelter is one of only two in operation within the United States.
Bismuth is a brittle metal that is generally mixed into alloys with other metals like cadmium or tin for use in products such as electric fuses and smoke detectors. It is also used in automotive coatings, paints and high-density plugs for decommissioning oil and gas wells among other things.
Fortune Minerals shares are currently worth $0.05 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the company has a market capitalization of $24 million. In April 2021, the stock hit a peak value of $0.18 before steadily declining to its current price.
Rio Tinto stock is currently worth US$63.64 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The price of standard cobalt has dropped by over 100 per cent since early last year and it is currently worth approximately $15.00 per pound. Bismuth is currently worth about $5.00 per pound.