TIMMINS -- In a first visual indicator of its pending recommissioning, a new company sign has sprung up at the First Cobalt Refinery.

Located near the border of Temiskaming Shores and Cobalt, company officials told CTV News that the refinery is the only permitted cobalt refinery in North America and say that they plan on it becoming the continent's only producer of battery-grade cobalt. 

"There's a much greater demand for cobalt today in a different form...and this is what we're planning to make," explained Trent Mell, president and chief executive officer for First Cobalt Refinery.  "It's battery sulphate for the electric vehicle market."

Mell said that the refinery has struck a partnership with Glencore in Sudbury, which will provide the feedstock that up until now, it has been sending to China. 

"And so we're going to replicate the China model, but bring it this way instead of shipping African feed to China," said Mell. "Why not bring it to North America where the need exists?"

Timmins-James Bay MP (NDP) Charlie Angus said that he hopes this development will also reignite exploration for the chemical element.  

"There's a lot of weariness in Silicon Valley about where Cobalt is coming from because of the horrific abuses in the Congo," said Angus. "First Cobalt will be taking their supplies from the Congo and there will still be a lot of questions but I'm hoping that out of this we'll start to see some investments in the cobalt deposits that we have here in the north."

First Cobalt is investing $80 million to get to production and Mell expects that it will take about a year to get there. He also said permitting and financing need to be finalized and secured.  There will also be some additional construction on the site.

To start, Mell said around 45 highly skilled employees will be hired and he projects that approximately 55 tonnes of cobalt sulphate will be produced. 

He added that he expects First Cobalt Refinery to account for about five per cent of the world's production of cobalt sulphate.