A former general manager of QNI has stated there is life at the Queensland Nickel plant at Yabulu outside Townsville.
In fact QN had the most prospective cobalt deposit in Queensland and possibly Australia, said Orestes Trifilio.
Mr Triffilio, these days a Dominican Republic-based consultant, led the refinery for five years between 1998 and 2003 under BHP.
The electric vehicle revolution with its demand for nickel, cobalt and copper would bring wealth to the region for many years to come, said Mr Trifilio.
“We believe that the largest, richest and most accessible Cobalt deposit, probably in Australia, is sitting in the tailings ponds of the ex-Yabulu refinery,” he said.
“In other words, the tailings, instead of being a curse or a problem, can generate an important opportunity.
“There are excellent technical ex-colleagues that may differ with me in this view, but am sure they will agree that there are several attractive features in the tailings, that would make them suitable as cobalt ‘ore’.”
Mr Trifilio contacted iQ Industry Queensland saying he wanted only to raise the issue and not be involved in the current politics surrounding the site.
“… there are new, not so new and adaptations of old processes that could be used for cobalt extraction, particularly from old tailings, from the time the cobalt recoveries were not so good,” he said.
“The challenge is to tap onto this potential opportunity, do the due diligence and corroborate, before the imminent cobalt needs are slowly satisfied.”
“By the way, we are only acting as catalysts, not looking for participation in the eventual ‘chemical reaction’.”
At the time he was there, Yabulu was a 30 plus year old nickel/cobalt refinery operating on imported ores from Indonesia, New Caledonia and the Philippines using the Caron Process, Mr Trifilio said.
“We were brought in … to help the existing team consolidate a process of continuous improvement, as well as to help take the operation to new highs in production, and lows in unit costs,” he said.
The doors were shut on the refinery when it entered voluntary administration in 2016 with the loss of 800 jobs.