SALMON (KIVI TV) — An opening ceremony was held Friday for a new cobalt mine near Salmon which represents a significant day for the domestic supply chain of the metal.
Australian mining company Jervois Global Limited officially opened operations, but the mine won’t be operating at full capacity until the first quarter of 2023, according to Matt Lengerich, Executive General Manager of Idaho Cobalt Operations.
“When we come up to full operations, we will produce about 2000 tons of cobalt in concentrate each year. So that’s enough for roughly 400,000 electric vehicles,” Lengerich said.
The mine is located on US Forest Service land about 40 miles west of Salmon and is on track to be the only primary cobalt operation in the country.
The “Idaho Cobalt Belt” represents an opportunity for a more secure way for American companies to get their hands on the critical material needed for various industries.
But current supply of the mineral used in electric vehicles, energy generation, and defense applications comes primarily from Africa and is processed and refined in China. The operations abroad have faced criticism due to human rights violations. UNICEF estimates thousands of children are working in artisanal mines located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The cobalt concentrate produced at the Jervois mine in Idaho will be shipped to Brazil for refinement, according to Lengerich.
“There’s currently no US domestic cobalt refinery. So at the moment, our only option is to take our cobalt concentrate overseas.”