Fortune Minerals and Rio Tinto unveil critical metals MOU

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Fortune Minerals Ltd.’ (FT-TSX) and Rio Tinto Group [RIO-NYSE] have agreed to collaborate to develop technology that will improve the recovery of critical metals cobalt and bismuth, Fortune said in a press release, Friday.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the companies, testing will be done at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott integrated copper mining and smelting operations in Utah and Fortune’s planned Alberta refinery.

The partnership aims to maximize the value of critical mineral supply chain investments and increase Fortune’s planned cobalt and bismuth refining operations to process co-product streams of minerals recovered from the Kennecott smelter.

Fortune Minerals shares advanced on the news, rising 14.3% or $0.005 to $0.04 on volume of 391,000. The shares currently trade in a 52-week range of $0.095 and $0.03

Rio Tinto is a multi-national diversified mining company with a global footprint that includes the Kennecott operations outside Salt Lake City, Utah. For 120 years, Kenncott has been mining and processing copper and other minerals, including gold, silver, molybdenum and tellurium from the orebody at the Bingham Canyon Mine.

Fortune’s flagship NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project in Canada’s Northwest Territories is one of the most advanced cobalt development assets outside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The critical minerals asset consists of a planned mine, mill and concentrator in the Northwest Territories and planned hydrometallurgical refinery in Alberta where concentrates from the mine would be processed.

Fortune says it has an option to purchase an brownfields industrial site in Lamont County, Alberta, northeast of Edmonton, where it plans to construct a hydrometallurgical refinery designed to process concentrates from the Nico operation. Fortune said it can acquire the site and related facilities for $5.5 million prior to December 31, 2023.

Cobalt is a high strength magnetic metal with a diverse range of applications. A key ingredient in the production of rechargeable batteries, cobalt is expected to be at the leading edge of the search for alternative and renewable energy systems.

Fortune has said the unique metal assemblage of the NICO deposit includes open pit and underground proven and probable reserves of 33 million tonnes, containing 1.1 million ounces of gold, 82 million pounds of cobalt, 102 million pounds of bismuth, and 27 million pounds of copper.

At the planned mill throughput rate of 4,650 tonnes of ore per day, the mineral reserves will sustain operations for 20 years, the company has said. Meanwhile, Fortune said it continues to pursue off-take agreements and financing solutions with the objective of commencing construction as soon as project financing is secured.

Fortune and Rio Tinto are working together to assess different process methods and technology options to recover bismuth and cobalt contained in Kennecott’s smelter waste streams. This includes blending Rio Tinto’s intermediate products with NICO project concentrates and conducting batch recovery tests using Fortune’s refinery flow sheets.

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