Voisey’s Bay / Cobalt

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Voisey’s Bay is one of the largest sources of cobalt outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an established world-class, low cost operation and one of the lowest CO2 emitters per unit of nickel produced. Voisey’s Bay is located in the Province of Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada and operated by Vale Canada, a subsidiary of Vale S.A., one of the world’s largest mining companies.

Stage

Producing

Commodity

Cobalt

Operator

Vale

Location

Canada

Royalty rate and type
22.82% attributable production

Production payment – 18% of spot price 

Balance sheet classification
Mineral stream interests (PP&E)

Ecora acquired a 70% net interest in a cobalt stream over the Voisey’s Bay mine in Canada owned and operated by Vale. The Company is entitled to receive 22.82% of all cobalt production from Voisey’s Bay up until 7,600 tonnes of finished cobalt have been delivered, and 11.41% entitlement thereafter.

Ecora Resources will make ongoing payments equal to 18% of an industry cobalt reference price for each pound of cobalt delivered under the cobalt stream, until it has recovered the $300m original upfront amount paid for the stream (through accumulating credit from 82% of the cobalt reference price) through cobalt deliveries; thereafter, the ongoing payments will increase to 22% of the cobalt reference price.

Cobalt is a key commodity in the production of lithiumion batteries. Voisey’s Bay is one of the largest sources of cobalt outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is an established world-class, low cost operation and one of the lowest CO2 emitters per unit of nickel produced. The stream from Voisey’s Bay is expected to increase materially in 2024 and 2025 to offset some of the reduction in revenue from the Kestrel royalty.

 

The Voisey’s Bay deposits are located in Labrador, Canada, and was discovered in 1993 with production commencing in 2005. Voisey’s Bay boasts attractive ESG credentials including being one of the largest cobalt producers outside the DRC, and has one of the lowest CO2 equivalent intensities per unit of payable metal. The operation has also been awarded the national John T. Ryan safety award for six consecutive years.

The mine is fully owned by Vale, hosting a fly-in and fly-out camp with integrated mining and milling operations that produce nickel and copper concentrates (containing cobalt by-products). Nickel concentrates are processed at Vale’s nickel refinery located at Long Harbour whilst its copper concentrates are sold directly to the market. Processing of the nickel concentrates at Long Harbour Processing Plant involves high pressure acid leaching, and solvent extraction and electrowinning (‘SX-EW’) processes. Mining operations are transitioning from the Ovoid open-pit to underground mining as part of the Voisey’s Bay underground mine extension project (‘VBME’). A Feasibility Study was completed in 2015 on the Voisey’s Bay Mine Expansion project (VBME), which includes two underground mines, Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps, and extends the mine life to 2035 with further exploration potential both in those zones at depth and also at the open-pit Discovery Hill deposit.

Following on from the start of production from the Reid Brook underground mine in June 2021, Vale is continuing ramping up to full production. The Eastern Deeps mine development continues with first ore forecast to begin in mid-2023 and the production ramp up advancing in H2 2023. The full ramp up in underground production is expected to be completed in 2025 when annual production is forecast to reach around 45,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025, with about 20,000 tonnes of copper and 2,600 tonnes of cobalt as by-products.

Production costs are in the second lowest quartile of the global nickel mine cost curve.

We were pleased to be welcomed at site in 2022, with both our CEO and Head of Technical present. The trip reaffirmed our view that the Voisey’s Bay stream has substantial upside, including the potential to significantly extend the operations beyond its current mine-life. During 2022 mining operations feeding the mill included the open pit and Reid Brook underground mine at Voisey’s Bay.

Ecora received 19 deliveries of cobalt during 2022 which totalled 380 tonnes of cobalt. One scheduled delivery slipped into early January 2023. Total stream revenue from this cobalt was $18.8m and, after cost of sales, generated $14.6m of net portfolio contribution. An average price of $32/lb was achieved with deliveries weighted towards the first half of the year when the average cobalt price was $37/lb, well ahead of the full year average price of $30/lb.

Key facts

2035

Projected mine life to 2035, based on current reserves, with potential for further mine life extensions

22.82%

APG is entitled to 22.82% of total cobalt produced, with a step down to 11.41% once certain delivery thresholds reached

100%

Target for 100% energy from renewable sources by 2030