Along with its lithium projects, MetalsTech is exploring for cobalt at its Bay Lake Project in Ontario, Canada.

Like nickel, cobalt, a chemical element, is found in the Earth’s crust only in chemically combined form, save for small deposits found in alloys of natural meteoric iron. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal.

Cobalt-based blue pigments (cobalt blue) have been used since ancient times for jewelry and paints, and to impart a distinctive blue tint to glass, but the color was later thought by alchemists to be due to the known metal bismuth. Miners had long used the name kobold ore (German for goblin ore) for some of the blue-pigment producing minerals; they were so named because they were poor in known metals, and gave poisonous arsenic-containing fumes upon smelting. In 1735, such ores were found to be reducible to a new metal (the first discovered since ancient times), and this was ultimately named for the kobold.

Today, some cobalt is produced specifically from various metallic-lustered ores, for example cobaltite (CoAsS), but the main source of the element is as a by-product of copper and nickel mining. The copper belt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Zambia yields most of the cobalt mined worldwide.

Applications

Cobalt is primarily used in the preparation of magnetic, wear-resistant and high-strength alloys. The compounds, cobalt silicate and cobalt(II) aluminate (CoAl2O4, cobalt blue) give a distinctive deep blue color to glass, ceramics, inks, paints and varnishes. Cobalt occurs naturally as only one stable isotope, cobalt-59. Cobalt-60 is a commercially important radioisotope, used as a radioactive tracer and to produce high energy gamma rays.

Other uses include:

  • Batteries – Lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) is widely used in lithium ion battery cathodes
  • Catalysts – Several cobalt compounds are used in chemical reactions as oxidation catalysts
  • Pigment and colouring – Before the 19th century, cobalt was predominantly used as a pigment but since the Middle Ages, it has been used in the production of smalt, a blue colored glass
  • Radioisotopes – Cobalt-60 (Co-60 or 60Co) is useful as a gamma ray source because it can be produced in predictable quantity and high activity by bombarding cobalt with neutrons
  • Electroplating – Cobalt is used in electroplating for its attractive appearance, hardness, resistance to oxidation
  • Paint primer – it is used as a base primer coat for porcelain enamels.