CoG3 Consortium: Investigating the recovery of cobalt

CoG3 project logo

Project summary

CoG3 updates

  • The next CoG3project meeting will be on Friday 24th March 2017 at the Natural History Museum
  •  In partnership with the Cobalt Development Institute, CoG3 will be hosting an Industry workshop in Marrakech, May 16th 2017. For more details see CoGtechnology workshop flyer.
  • The CDI cobalt conference 17-18th May 2017 will follow on from the technology workshop.

The Museum is working with six UK universities and Diamond Light Source on a multidisciplinary study investigating solutions for the extraction of cobalt from ore deposits in Europe.

We hope to increase the UK's exploration, mining and recovery of cobalt, a metal of great strategic and economic importance. In this project we wil look at the geology, geometallurgy and geomicrobiology of cobalt resources leading to new product streams (CoG3).

The project aims to:

  • identify new environmentally benign extraction and recovery processes for cobalt
  • understand how cobalt minerals and ores are formed
  • understand how cobalt behaves in the Earth's crust
  • promote a greater understanding of the distribution and behaviour of cobalt in natural systems

Rationale

Cobalt (Co) is classified as an E-tech element by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) which means it is considered essential for a technologically advanced, low-carbon society. Cobalt is designated a critical element by the European Union's Raw Materials Initiative.

Around 55,000 tonnes of Co are produced globally each year. Less than 0.1 % of this is produced within Europe, yet European countries use around 30 % of globally produced cobalt. 

Large untapped reserves of cobalt in Europe include:

  • black shale ores in Poland, which are mined for copper
  • cobalt-bearing nickel laterite ores in Greece, Macedonia and Kosovo

Recovery and extraction problems

One of the primary difficulties facing cobalt recovery from sulphide copper ores relates to its flotation when using conventional processes.

In an attempt to overcome these difficulties, processing companies are using increasingly complex chemical additives. The toxicity of these chemicals increases the potential environmental risk of the process, both in terms of volatilisation and leakage into the surroundings. 

Lateritic and other oxidised cobalt-bearing ores, such as marine nodules, pose significant technical challenges in developing economic and environmentally benign approaches to cobalt recovery.

Recent advances in bioprocessing ores and mineral concentrates have highlighted potential new techniques.

More information

Access detailed information on the CoG3 project and its work packages

The CoG3 blog

Follow the project team blog to find out about our fieldwork and results. 

Project people

Museum staff

Bangor University

Prof. David Barrie Johnson

University of Dundee

Professor Geoff Gadd FSB FLS FLSW FRSE

Loughborough University

Dr Caroline Kirk

University of Exeter

Prof Hylke J Glass

University of Manchester

Prof Jonathan Lloyd

University of Southampton

Professor Stephen Roberts

Diamond Light Source

Prof Fred Mosselmans

Wroclaw University of Technology

Funded by

Collaborators and project partners