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Chile Releases New Preliminary Study On Its Cobalt Potential: Gearing Up To Feed The Electric Car Industry

Author:Mining Prospects, Frederico Marques and Etienne Ravilet Guzman
Profession:McCarthy Tétrault LLP

On 12 December, 2017, Chile's Corporation for the Promotion of Production ("CORFO"), together with the National Service of Geology and Mining ("Sernageomin") and the University of Chile, released an interesting preliminary report about the potential to explore for and develop cobalt deposits in Chile: "Cobalt Mineral Resources in Chile - Exploration & Mining Potential" (the "Report").1 The Report identifies the districts of San Juan & Carrizalillo Alto (Atacama Region) and Tambillos (Coquimbo Region) as potential targets for cobalt extraction, together with copper and gold. These minerals are generally found together in small to medium scale deposits, breccias, mantos and veins within the Chilean Iron Belt. The Report relied on existing data and on-site visits of high and medium interest areas to identify cobalt deposits throughout Chile while focusing on the north of the country.2

Given the current trend of sustained growth in cobalt demand, which is expected to increase 34% yearly until 2026 along with the booming development of the electric vehicle market, the Report might be of interest to investors considering to do business in the mining sector.3

Cobalt in Primary Deposits and as a Sub Product

The Report pinpoints the Chilean Iron Belt as the main area where primary cobalt deposits are located "along the coastal cordillera and spatially related with the Atacama Fault Zone, both in the Atacama and Coquimbo regions." Data suggests that primary deposits of cobalt veins and mantos could also be located in the areas of El Volcán, Cajón del Maipo, Metropolitan Region, and Laguna del Maule, del Maule Region.4

As a sub product, cobalt is often found together with copper, arsenic, nickel and iron sulfide minerals, and therefore "based on Chilean metallogenesis, all copper and iron deposits could bear potential for cobalt sulfide/arsenide". IOCG, IOA and poryphyry copper deposits (in that order of importance) have the biggest potential for cobalt extraction.5

San Juan and Tambillos Districts: Cobalt Production Potential

Based on a 1983 exploration study and a 2008 Sernageomin study, the Report highlights five mineral zones in the San Juan district with potential for cobalt (and other minerals) extraction: Mineral de Labrar (Zone 1), Quebradita (Zone 2), El Romero (Zone 3), Fraguita and La Cobaltera (Zone 4) (outlined in white in the map here depicted).6 In these zones, "samples of primary ore rocks from mineral piles, trenches and vein...

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