Pushing on with battery project despite colbalt price dip
THE proponents of Townsville's battery metals projects, including the embattled Clive Palmer, say they are moving ahead with their development plans despite a crash in cobalt prices.
But at least one - Australian Mines, which is proposing the Sconi project at Greenvale - says the tanking cobalt price certainly doesn't help.
"It does make getting new projects up a lot more difficult," Australian Mines managing director Ben Bell said yesterday.
Cobalt prices have risen a rollercoaster since early 2017, soaring from about $US30,000 a tonne to peak at more than $US90,000 a tonne last year, before falling away to $US26,000 a tonne on latest trade.
The ride has reflected market sentiment about the prospects for a transition to electric vehicles and forecast shortages in cobalt, used in smartphones and tablet batteries, and soon in electric vehicle and home storage battery systems.
Players including Australian Mines, Pure Minerals, Imperium3 and Clive Palmer's QNI plan developments in Townsville to service the battery market.
Mr Palmer, who is fighting a $200 million lawsuit by liquidators of his Yabulu nickel refinery, announced last year its tailings ponds held $6 billion worth of cobalt and that they would process the material for the first seven years of operations.
That cobalt presumably is still worth $2 billion at today's prices and a spokesman for the businessman yesterday said Mr Palmer "absolutely plans on reopening the refinery".
A spokesman for Glencore, which holds a long-term lease over the refinery's former nickel berth at the port, said they remained open to discussions on port access, while a spokesman for the port said they had "positive discussions" with Mr Palmer's Queensland Nickel Sales about recommencing nickel ore imports.
Mr Bell said they continued to negotiate with financiers and still hoped to be "on the ground" to begin development of mines and processing plant at Greenvale later this year.
Pure Minerals managing director John Downie said while cobalt was a "nice add", their refinery, proposed for the Lansdown Industrial Precinct, would produce 25,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate, 3000 tonnes of cobalt sulphate, 4600 tonnes of magnesium oxide and 221,000 tonnes of hematite iron ore.
Nickel, where prices had increased 30 per cent to $US14,000 a tonne since 2015, was the metal to watch, Mr Downie said.
Pure Minerals' subsidiary Queensland Pacific Metals plans to import nickel ore from New Caledonia for processing at a $300 million Stage 1 plant in Townsville in mid-2021.