CoG3 Consortium: investigating the recovery of cobalt

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Project summary

CoG3 updates

  • A CoG3 project meeting was held in Manchester on the 17 October 2017
  • From 20-26 September 2017 the NHM team travelled to eastern Ontario, Canada to sample cobalt mineral occurrences within the Ontario Cobalt Belt
  • CoG3 ran the SoS Minerals Resources Programme Summer School at the NHM from 3-6 July 2017
  • The Investigators Meeting for the programme followed on 6-7 July 2017

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


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.

Project details

Work package 1 - The new sources of cobalt: Characterization of new ore types and ores for new types of processing.

Work package 2 - Natural biogeochemistry of cobalt: Biotic and abiotic constraints on cobalt mineral formation and transformation.

Work package 3 - Bioprocessing of cobalt: Abiotic and biotic leaching and production of new biomineral products.

Work package 4 - Improving the supply chain of cobalt.

Project outputs

Poster presentations

4th Annual Conference of the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials, 30/11-01/12 2016,  Brussels.

SoS MinErals Summer School and Project Meeting, 30/06/2016, Leicester.

Funded by

Collaborators and project partners