Australia-based cobalt and nickel supplier Jervois Global has started the commissioning of its Idaho Cobalt Operations (ICO) mine site near Salmon, Idaho.

The mine is expected to reach full production capacity by the second quarter of next year, when it will be the US’ only primary cobalt mine.

This mine will produce a cobalt concentrate that will be further refined into the critical metal required for electric vehicles, energy generation and distribution, defence and other applications. 

Jervois expects the ore delivery to the plant on the ICO site to begin this month. Underground mine infrastructure, including the underground fuel island and triple clarifying sumps, are nearing completion.

The company expects the ICO to contribute to the US’ national security by securing a domestic supply of cobalt, which has been designated as a critical mineral by the US government.

In addition, Jervois has an option to refine cobalt concentrate from ICO at its fully owned São Miguel Paulista (SMP) refinery in São Paulo, Brazil.

The firm is also in talks with third-party processors in countries allied to the US and plans to sell copper concentrate into North American markets from ICO.

In a statement, Jervois said: “Jervois is proud of its environmental record to date and plans to continue to demonstrate its ability to operate ICO with strong environmental stewardship.

“Jervois looks forward to continuing its productive relationship with its regulators, including the US Forest Service, as it examines potential mine expansion within the currently disturbed site footprint.”

Jervois is also working to optimise its business plan for ICO, in part to mitigate US inflationary pressures on the mine’s operating costs.

In a press statement, the firm said: “ICO became an economically viable project as cobalt prices increased, and global geopolitical perspectives evolved with governments placing increased importance on critical mineral production in their own countries or in friendly jurisdictions.”