Are you ready for the cobalt rush?

The news that cobalt mining has returned to the US after a decade’s long absence is a cause for celebration, and not just for extraction companies. Analysts have been predicting a shortage of the chemical element, essential for the batteries used in consumer electronics and super alloys used in jet engines, to hit the global economy in the early 2020s.

Cobalt consumption has spiked in recent years, and is expected to hit 122,000 tons this year. This is a significant increase from the 75,000 tons used in 2011. This makes the recent finds in sites in Alaska and Idaho extremely valuable for mining companies.

Getting hold of cobalt though isn’t a simple procedure. Companies looking to get their hands dirty need to ensure they are armed with equipment that can perform the right kind of geochemical analysis throughout the extraction process. Hitachi High-Tech has solutions optimized for both on-site and lab analysis.


A new gold rush?

Cobalt is a big deal for the mining industry. Its central importance to the smartphone market as well as the growing electric car industry means that consumption is expected to rise by 8% to 10% a year. There are now hundreds of companies dedicating resources to trying to find deposits, with both Glencore and BHP Billiton Ltd looking to increase production. Concerns about a potential shortage recently pushed Apple and Samsung to look into whether they can begin purchasing the element directly from miners.

Mining cobalt is an intensive process that requires fast, accurate and reliable geochemical analysis. The process for cobalt recovery often involves a number of steps that rely on operators being able to distinguish between trace amounts of substances with very similar chemical structures (limestone and milk of lime for example).

Hitachi High-Tech can provide mining companies with geochemical analysis solutions that increase efficiency, lower costs and shorten time to market. Covering the whole process, from exploration all the way to environmental screening during decommissioning, mining operators will find an instrument from Hitachi High-Tech’s range that meets their needs.

On-site: handheld X-MET8000 Expert Geo

The X-MET8000 Expert Geo is a portable XRF analyzer built for the requirements of the mining industry. It has a number of distinct advantages over other analysis options available. 

Firstly, the instrument is very easy to use and requires minimal sample preparation for grade quality screening and geochemical trends analysis. All operators have to do is point the device at the mineral and pull the trigger. The results appear on the screen almost instantaneously. Weighing only 1.5kg and with a 10 -12 hour battery life, the device allows operators to record multiple analyses from the same location or across a mining site.

Results can be shared through the Hitachi ExTOPE Connect app to colleagues, clients and suppliers for decision making almost as quick as the analysis itself. Embedded GPS means test results can be mapped accurately onto a test site. In a sector as competitive as mining, having equipment that works at the speed you need it to can be a key differentiator.

The X-MET8000 Expert Geo also delivers superior performance: Hitachi High-Tech’s BOOST™ technology means it’s up to 10 times more sensitive than other handheld XRF analyzers.

Benchtop analyzer: X-Supreme8000

The X-Supreme8000 is packed with features that make it the ideal for mining operations. The sample spinner delivers repeatable results, even for inhomogeneous samples. The analyzer remains free of dust and dirt for long-term reliability and accurate results. There’s no fan inside the instrument drawing dust in, and “plugs” under the sample tray prevent particles to settle on the analyzer’s critical components when idle. The X-Supreme’s 10-position sample tray also allows users to analyze multiple samples in one run, leaving them free to carry out other tasks.

We’ve got you covered

The Hitachi High-Tech range of analysis tools allow companies to utilize cutting edge analysis without having to sacrifice efficiency and productivity.

If you would like more information on the products we offer the mining industry or to book a demo, get in touch with a member of our team today.

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Date: 16 October 2018

Author: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

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