Cobalt Exploitation in Chile
Chilean mining has diversified, and even when copper still dominates the national economy, lithium, gold, iron, cobalt and others have positioned themselves within the interest of both public and private entities. Electromobility has placed lithium in the forefront of the national market, however, cobalt has proven to be as important for low carbon technologies, and in Chile it is naturally occurring. According to the World Bank, by 2050 cobalt production will increase from 110 kt to 644 kt, which means an increase of 585%. Chile and other countries must take advantage of the current situation, ahead of the incipient demand, in order to become leaders in production technologies and knowledge of cobalt. For this, the geology, the metallurgical extractive processes, and the market conditions must be known and studied for this chemical element.
During the 19th and 20th centuries cobalt was exploited for armament production and superalloys, since it has a melting point over 1100°C, meaning it is a chemical element that resists very high temperatures before melting. Also, it has an important role in electromobility, since the chemical properties of cobalt allow it to work as a substratum that allows a redox (oxidation-reduction) reaction in Li-ion batteries to work up to 3 times more. In the past, cobalt was exploited in Chile from cobalt deposits (for example, La Cobaltera, San Juan or Tambillos), however currently cobalt has been found to be related to pyrite mineralization due to its affinity with iron. Based on this, different types of mineral deposits could be interesting for cobalt exploitation, primarily iron deposits located in the ferriferous belt, along the coastal mountain range. Added to this, SMI-ICE Chile has recently studied some mineral deposits located along this belt, evidencing presence of cobalt in pyrite crystals.
For the first time in Chile, SMI-ICE will host a technical workshop specially focused on this mineral. The activity will gather the primary advocates of the potential of cobalt as main- or by product, in existing or future mining operations. The workshop will focus on identifying opportunities, sharing experiences and discussing challenges related to the recovery of cobalt. The program includes an introduction by the organizers, and presentation sessions on topics such as Cobalt Demand and Supply; Cobalt from Ore; Cobalt from Secondary Resources and Recycling; and Industrial Case Studies.
Mining industry professionals with interest in knowing more about this element are invited to participate on November 20 from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm at Sheraton Santiago Hotel. Registrations are open to participants of the Procemin-Geomet 2019 conference. More information at gecamin.com/procemin.geomet
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