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Fortune Minerals Announces Arrival of Samples at SGS Canada in Lakefield, Ontario for Metallurgical Testing

Fortune Minerals Limited (“Fortune” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce the successful delivery of ore samples from the NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper deposit (“NICO Deposit”) in the Northwest Territories (“NWT”) to SGS Canada Inc. in Lakefield, Ontario. These ores will be used to conduct additional metallurgical testing and pilot work to validate recent optimizations and support detailed engineering and an updated Feasibility Study for the vertically integrated NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper Critical Minerals project in Canada (“NICO Project”). Intermediate test products produced from NICO Project ores and concentrates will also be blended with metal precipitates sourced from Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Smelter in Utah to assess the feasibility of processing these materials to recover additional bismuth and cobalt at Fortune’s planned hydrometallurgical refinery in Alberta (“Alberta Refinery”). Successful validation of the Fortune optimizations and processing of Rio Tinto precipitates would increase Critical Mineral production and revenues and reduce waste disposal costs for the planned Alberta Refinery.

Fortune Minerals collects ore samples from the NICO critical minerals project for metallurgical testing, Image Credit: Business Wire

The NICO Project is an advanced development stage asset comprised of a planned open pit and underground mine and concentrator in the NWT and a hydrometallurgical refinery in Alberta to process metal concentrates from the mine and other compatible sources to value-added products. Development of the NICO Project would provide a North American supply of three Critical Minerals needed for the energy transition, new technologies, and growing green economy. The Mineral Reserves for the NICO Deposit also contain more than one million ounces of gold, the price for which has recently exceeded historic highs, providing a highly liquid and countercyclical co-product to mitigate Critical Mineral price volatility.

Fortune prepared approximately 15 metric tonnes of ores from its existing stockpiles at the NICO Deposit in 2023, which were recently slung 10 km by helicopter to trucks on the winter ice road for haulage to SGS Canada Inc. for the completion of the first phase of the metallurgical program. The samples are being inspected for quality assurance, and this will be followed by crushing, grinding, and flotation to make gold-bearing cobalt and bismuth sulphide concentrates during phase two of the program. Phase three will consist of hydrometallurgical processing of the concentrates to address gaps needed for detailed engineering and validate process optimizations, including precipitation of a clean gypsum by-product from the autoclave waste residue to reduce disposal costs at the Alberta Refinery. Rio Tinto has also successfully demonstrated precipitation of a bismuth intermediate product from Kennecott smelter wastes in Utah. These will be blended with Fortune test products at SGS Canada Inc. to validate the recovery of the contained metals using the Alberta Refinery metallurgical flow sheet. A portion of Fortune’s costs for the metallurgical test work is being reimbursed by the Government of Canada with a grant from the Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration (“CMRDD”) program. Alberta Innovates is also providing financial support through their Clean Resources Continuous Intake Program (see Fortune News Release, dated December 5, 2023, and Natural Resources Canada News release, dated March 23, 2024).

Fortune has also secured an additional extension to the purchase option it has with JFSL Field Services ULC (“JFSL”) to acquire its brownfield industrial site in Lamont County, Alberta where it plans to construct the Alberta Refinery (see news release dated January 24, 2022). This 77-acre site has 42,000 square feet of serviced shops and buildings adjacent to the Canadian National Railway and is close to sources of reagents, skilled labour, and utilities already in place to service the Alberta petrochemicals industry and a nickel-cobalt refinery operated by another mining company. The JFSL site is an ideal location to construct the Fortune refinery and expand the Edmonton area as a Critical Minerals processing hub in western Canada. Fortune can complete the purchase of the JFSL facilities before May 15, 2024 by paying C$5.5 million, less payments already made, and subject to JFSL’s right to use the facilities during the eighteen months following Fortune’s completion of the purchase option.

The NICO Project will provide a North American vertically integrated supply of cobalt sulphate needed to make the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles, portable electronics, and stationary storage cells. The development will also help mitigate concerns over the current sources of supply, notably including geographic concentration of 77% of global cobalt mine production in the politically unstable Democratic Republic of the Congo and China’s control over 80% of the world’s refined cobalt supply.

The NICO Deposit contains 12% of global bismuth reserves and is the largest deposit of this metal in the world. Production from the NICO Project would mitigate policy risks associated with China’s control over 75% of current bismuth production and provide a North American supply alternative that is exempt from the 25% U.S. Government tariff on Chinese imports. Bismuth has unique physical and chemical properties leveraged by the automotive, construction and pharmaceutical industries. Consumption of bismuth is growing as an environmentally safe and non-toxic replacement for lead in brass, solder, free-machining steel and aluminum, paints and pigments, glass, radiation shielding, and ammunition. Bismuth demand is also growing to make high-density metal plugs used to permanently seal decommissioned oil and gas wells to prevent greenhouse gas leakage and blowouts. An important developing market is the use of bismuth in permanent magnets to provide a superior and lower cost alternative to rare earth element magnets used in direct current electric vehicle motors.



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