Government of Canada and Province of Ontario invest $10 Million to establish North America’s first cobalt refinery in Northern Ontario

News release

FedNor and NOHFC investments to create more than 100 full-time jobs, improve Canada’s supply chain and reduce import dependency for electric vehicle battery production 

December 16, 2020 – Sudbury, ON – Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario – FedNor

The Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario are each investing $5 million in the First Cobalt Corporation to accelerate domestic production of battery-grade cobalt sulfate, a required element needed to produce long-range electric vehicles (EVs). 

The announcement was made today by Terry Sheehan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedNor and the Honourable Greg Rickford, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs.

Provided through FedNor’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program and Ontario’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), this strategic investment will enable First Cobalt Corporation to recommission and expand its hydrometallurgical cobalt refinery in North Cobalt, located 500 kilometres North of Toronto. Once complete, the facility will be the first and only facility of its kind in North America, capable of producing 25,000 tonnes of battery-grade cobalt sulfate annually, which represents five percent of the global market for refined cobalt.

Mining and related industries employ more than 625,000 people across the country and contribute as much as $97 billion a year to Canada’s GDP. With one of the largest concentrations of mining and related businesses in Canada, Northern Ontario’s mining industry is a key economic driver that fuels social and economic growth, while creating jobs and opportunities for families throughout the region.

This investment also helps advance the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan for Critical Minerals Collaboration, by strengthening the North American supply chain security for this critical battery mineral.

Northern Ontario has been hard hit by COVID-19 and today’s announcement demonstrates how the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario are working together to help families, communities and businesses to not just survive, but also thrive. It will help get Canadians back to work safely and ensure that Northern Ontario is well positioned to fully participate in Canada’s economic recovery 


“Our government is proud to invest in North America’s first producer of battery-grade cobalt sulphate, First Cobalt Corporation. This investment will help to create more than 100 jobs, reduce the company’s environmental footprint and ensure EV manufacturers in Canada and across North America have access to a secure supply of ethically sourced cobalt. A strong domestic supply chain for essential resources needed to produce EV batteries is critical to the long-term success of the Canadian auto industry and growing our national economy.”
- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for FedNor 

“The Government of Canada is paving the way for Northern Ontario’s mining and related industries to become more competitive and succeed in the global economy. This FedNor investment supports our government’s commitment to improve resource development, strengthen Canada’s supply chain and accelerate our clean energy transition. This strategic initiative will also position Northern Ontario as the sole producer of refined cobalt on the continent.”
- Terry Sheehan, Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedNor 

“New technologies and high-growth sectors are leading to an increased demand for critical minerals and Ontario is uniquely positioned to meet this demand. Our government’s investment in First Cobalt Corporation is supporting North America’s first and only cobalt sulphate producer. Northern Ontario is a global leader in mineral production and processing, and our government is proud to support this vital sector to create good jobs and opportunities for communities across Northern Ontario.”  
- The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs 

“Establishing North America’s only Cobalt refinery in Nipissing-Timiskaming is a game changer for our regional economy. This FedNor investment will allow First Cobalt to capitalize on opportunities created by the green economy, while reducing Canada’s import dependency for critical minerals and creating jobs and growth to help fuel our recovery efforts.”
- The Honourable Anthony Rota, Member of Parliament for Nipissing–Timiskaming 

“Our whole province will benefit as we leverage our natural resources to become a bigger player in electric vehicle parts and battery manufacturing supply chain. The ongoing collaboration between all levels of government, industry and labour will be essential as we go down the road of economic recovery and build for the future."
- The Honourable Victor Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade 

“The electric vehicle revolution is powered by cobalt and we are thrilled to partner with the Governments of Canada and Ontario to expand and recommission our Northern Ontario refinery bringing long-term, well-paying jobs to the community. Global demand for cobalt is increasing as EVs become more widely adopted. Once fully operational, our refinery will be the only source of domestic cobalt for the North American EV industry. Our value-added processing facility will support the North American and European auto sector with ethically-sourced, low carbon cobalt that will power electric vehicles now and into the future.”
- Trent Mell, President & CEO, First Cobalt Corporation 

Quick facts

  • The Government of Canada funding announced today is provided through FedNor’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program, which supports businesses at all stages of development, including start-up, scale-up and technology adoption. 

  • In January 2021, the Ontario Government will launch a new and improved NOHFC program that will support more projects in rural northern communities and make it easier for more people and businesses to apply. The program will target both existing and emerging market opportunities, provide more work opportunities for Indigenous people and address the skilled labour shortage in the north. 

Associated links


Catherine Mounier-Desrochers
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Alex Puddifant,
Office of the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines

Barclay Babcock
Communications Officer

Media Desk,
Communications Branch, Northern Development and Mines

Sabrina Gunness
First Cobalt Corporation

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