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First Cobalt's man with the marketing plan

Michael Insulan appointed by cobalt processor to advance offtake strategy

First Cobalt wants to hit the ground running by the time its refurbished northeastern Ontario refinery is fired up by the fall of 2022.

The Toronto cobalt processor has appointed Michael Insulan as its vice-president, commercial.

Based in Europe, his strategic priority will be to key in on major battery suppliers, the automotive sector and all things to do with the lithium-ion battery supply chain sector.

Insulan has nearly 20 years of experience in oil and gas, bulk commodities, base and minor metals, working for Royal Dutch Shell, CRU, and Eurasian Resources Group. The last four years, he's become known as an industry expert on cobalt.

He'll be in charge of marketing of the company's refined cobalt sulfate production to electric vehicle manufacturers and battery cell makers.

Insulan will also be responsible for marketing recycled cobalt, nickel, lithium and other battery materials produced by the refinery - under a proposed second expansion of the plant - with the refined black mass material recovered from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries.

Construction and expansion of First Cobalt's refinery, just outside the town of Cobalt, begins this year. The plant commissioning is slated for October 2022.

When in operation, the refinery would represent five per cent of the world's cobalt refining capacity.

The plant would convert cobalt hydroxide - mined and transported from Africa - into a highly pure, battery-grade cobalt sulfate material which is used in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles, as well as other electrified consumer and industrial applications.

First Cobalt is setting up this facility to be an international toll processing centre, handling cobalt hydroxide imported from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But it also wants to recycle spent batteries which contain valuable black mass metals such as cobalt, nickel, copper, lithium, manganese, aluminum and graphite.

The company said it's in active discussions with several electric vehicle manufacturers and other battery supply chain participants to provide refined cobalt material.

First Cobalt recently signed a five-year offtake agreement with Stratton Metal Resources, a British commodities hedge fund, to take up to 100 per cent of all of First Cobalt's cobalt sulfate production. But there's plenty of wiggle room for First Cobalt to enter into offtake agreements with other manufacturers and suppliers.

"With the commissioning of our Canadian cobalt sulfate refinery expected in October 2022, recruiting Michael to join our team is another executed step in our strategic plan," said First Cobalt president Trent Mell in a statement.

"His experience and global network of contacts in the battery materials space will be invaluable to marketing what we expect will be the world's most sustainably-sourced cobalt. With an expansion into battery recycling, the company can also provide OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) with an end-of-life battery solution to recover nickel, cobalt, lithium and other battery materials."

Insulan called it "an honour" to join the company advances its plan to be a refined cobalt supplier to the world.

"In a market dominated by China, a North American battery materials plant with top ESG (environmental and social governance) credentials and the capacity to supply the growing battery cell and electric vehicle industries in North America and Europe is an opportunity that cannot be missed."

Besides being a refinery owner, First Cobalt holds a large chunk of silver and cobalt exploration ground in the Temiskaming area and owns the Iron Creek cobalt-copper project in Idaho.