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The demand for electric vehicles, at the start of 2019 anticipated to be high, has been slower than expected – and the consequent result has seen a fairly steep drop in battery minerals pricing, including cobalt. There is however no need to curtail cobalt production.

Through Martin Marietta’s MagChem40 product (distributed by minerals processing reagent specialist Magnesia solutions, an Axis House group compabi), cobalt miners are guaranteed the most effective and efficient cobalt precipitation, alongside reduced costs as well, Axis House MD JUSTINE STUBBS tells LAURA CORNISH.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 1, 2020

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Precipitation of cobalt for leach solutions today still remains the premium hydrometallurgical process used to recover cobalt. And while there are many precipitation products available on the market such as calcium oxide, sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide, Stubbs says that magnesium oxide (MgO) has been proven to be the preferred pH modifier/precipitation agent in this process.

“Axis House has worked with Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialities, producer of MagChem40 and the largest producer of Synthetic magnesia in North America since 2010 and Magnesia solutions in 2016 took over the distribution agreement,” Stubbs explains.

“MagChem40 is undeniably superior in nature to the various cobalt precipitation products available on the market, including other MgO products. MagChem40 light burned MgO offers the highest purity and best reactivity.

“This synthetic product also requires a lower dosage (as much as 25% less) than naturally produced MgOs – the combination of these benefits results in higher cobalt recoveries and better product grades in the fastest possible time,” she continues.

While this product has been available to the global cobalt mining industry (which largely constitutes operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)) for +10 years – the current low pricing environment dictates that miners re-evaluate options to ensure their cobalt processing performance is optimised, and MagChem40 delivers on this objective.

On the back of wanting to relaunch and reinvigorate interest in the MagChem product, Axis House and Magnesia Solutions successfully held a formal event in November 2019 and was joined by representatives from Martin Marietta to share the product’s benefits with the widespread DRC audience in attendance.

In build-up to the event, Axis House conducted extensive test work on the product through the establishment of a pilot plant at its premises in Kolwezi which was aimed at optimising and reducing MagChem40 consumption while gaining the same recovery benefits it has always delivered. The results of this test work was shared on the day.

How is MagChem40 sourced and produced

MagChem40 is synthesised by reacting magnesium chloride brine with hydromelitic lime – sourced from Martin Marietta’s +50 life underground brine reserves in Michigan and dolomitic limestone quarry (also the largest in North America) in Ohio.

“It is the quality of these brine and limestone products that produce such a pure quality MgO reagent,” Stubbs reveals.

With currently 15 DRC-based Magchem 40 clients, and two local facilities in the country, Stubbs and the Axis House team are equipped to understand the existing and emerging local sector’s needs and provide a service and products that meet those needs. “MagChem40 is a perfect example of this,” Stubbs highlights.