Fortune Minerals Limited (TSX:FT) (OTCQB:FTMDF) is continuing discussions with potential strategic partners as it moves toward development of the NICO Cobalt-Gold-Bismuth-Copper Project (NICO Project) in Canada.
The NICO Project consists of a planned mine and concentrator in the Northwest Territories, and a related refinery in southern Canada where the company plans to process concentrates from the mine to value added metals and chemicals.
The Mineral Reserves of the NICO Deposit contain cobalt and bismuth, both metals identified on the US Government and European Union Critical Minerals Lists, plus more than one million ounces of gold and by-product copper.
President and CEO, Robin Goad, said development of the NICO Project would provide a reliable North American vertically integrated supply of cobalt and bismuth to mitigate supply chain concerns from geopolitical risks and geographic concentration of supply in the Democratic Republic of Congo and China.
Apart from continuing discussions with potential strategic partners interested in the NICO development, Fortune is participating in the supply chain for transformative automotive electrification with cobalt chemicals required to make the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries together with a highly liquid gold co-product.
The NICO Project was assessed in a Feasibility Study prepared by Micon International Limited in 2014, based primarily on the Company’s Front-End Engineering and Design study by Aker Solutions.
The NICO Deposit has open pit and underground Mineral Reserves totalling 33.1 million tonnes, averaging 1.03 grams of gold per tonne, 0.11% cobalt, 0.14% bismuth and 0.04% copper.
Mr Goad said Fortune is now developing a new mine plan and schedule based on the updated Mineral Resource model with focus on early access to higher grade material using a combination of open pit and underground mining methods that was also pursued in the 2014 Micon Feasibility Study.
Open pit optimisation and scheduling will likely be augmented during early years of the mine life with higher-grade gold-rich material sourced from deeper parts of the NICO Deposit in stopes designed close to the existing ramp system that was constructed for earlier test mining and minimize underground pre-production development.
The mine plan will also include a grade control and stockpiling strategy to defer processing of lower quality ores that was being pursued in 2019 before the Company terminated the expanded project study.
Meanwhile, construction of the C$200 million Tlicho All-Season Road to the community of Whati for the Northwest Territories (NWT), federal and Tlicho governments commenced in September 2019 and is progressing at a very rapid pace.