1st US cobalt facility to be built in Yuma County
P&Z oks special use permit for project near Tacna
The first cobalt sulfate production facility in the United States will be built in Yuma County. Cobalt sulfate is used in batteries for electric vehicles.
The Yuma County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a special use permit to allow Evelution Energy to build the facility on 138 acres of undeveloped desert terrain in the vicinity of Old Highway 80 and Avenue 47½E, about 7½ miles west of Tacna. This was the site of a previously proposed ethanol plant that did not materialize.
Staff had recommended approval of the request.
Navaid Alam, CEO of Evelution Energy with longtime ties to Yuma County, explained that cobalt is mainly made in Africa and about 80% of the metals are processed in China before arriving in America.
“But when we finish off the facility, it will go from Africa to America and stay in America,” Alam said. “We’d like to move that processing back onshore to America and get jobs back in America, build infrastructure back in America and provide lots of job opportunities for the local community. Lots of local taxes (and) training for the newly employed people of the local area.”
He noted that the company hopes the Arizona Commerce Authority will provide training for the skills needed in the facility at the Arizona Western College campus in Weltton.
The product will be sold to companies such as General Motors, Tesla, Panasonic and LG who are building electric vehicle battery manufacturing facilities across the U.S.
The material will be trucked to the site in oneton super sacks from the Port of Ensenada and unloaded inside the facility.
No dust will escape the facility, according to Alam.
“We want to be fully green and carbon neutral so our facility’s going to be fully solar powered,” Alam said.
Power will be provided primarily by the project’s own 28.4 megawatt solar power farm, and if necessary, the Wellton-mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District.
The cobalt sulfate production process requires a significant amount of energy. To reduce the carbon footprint of the plant, solar electricity will be used to heat water in a hot water storage tank instead of natural gas or propane.
The proposed solar electricity generation will supply the needs of the plant with excess power generated sent to the recharge battery storage and Wellton-mohawk Irrigation District during the day.
About 70% of the
water will be recycled. Three tanks will store water, one for well water/fire protection, one for process water, and one for recycling water.
Water is available from groundwater wells. The property lies within the Wellton-mohawk sub-basin of the Lower Gila aquifer.
“Water for the facility will be drilled on our own land down to the aquifer level about 1,000 feet below the water table, so we’re not going be using surface water or river water. There’s plenty of water down there. We’re expected to use about 34 acre-feet a month,” Alam explained.
All materials will be processed indoors. Tailings from the process plant will be non-hazardous and will be transported by truck to the Copper Mountain landfill in Wellton, which is 16 miles from the project site.
The proposed facility will increase traffic due to deliveries and shipments going in and out. A traffic study will be required to predict what type of road improvements this facility will need to make.
In addition, Evelution Energy hopes to add electric charging stations for the public. “These days a lot more people are getting into electric cars, and there’s electric trucks coming, and a lot of people may even already have a truck so we’d like to get a charging station, a super DC fast-charging station on site as well, and it’s pretty accessible, just right off of off of Old 80 and 52E. It should be easy enough to have that there,” Alam said.
Commissioner Bobbi Mcdermott called the superchargers a “great idea “She said: “For the folks who underestimate leaving Phoenix and heading to Yuma, it really is great to have a place almost halfway in between where you can say oops and charge up.”
In an economic impact report, the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. indicated that the facility will generate $160 million in construction value and $55 million during construction of the facility.
The facility will create 1,229 new jobs during construction and 60 jobs at the facility per year, resulting in an annual payroll of $3.6 million and $30.4 million in annual household spending. It’s also expected to contribute an annual average of $2.5 million in local and state tax revenues.
The project is in a qualified opportunity zone. “There’s a lot of tax incentives to build here. The federal government is providing significant tax breaks for this investment,” Alam said.
“My partners are very well experienced in developing infrastructure around the world and the United States,” he added.
Daniel Neff, the project’s head engineer, pointed out that this would be the first cobalt sulfate plant in the United States. “There’s a small one up in Canada, but this would be the first time in the U.S.,” he said.
No members of the public spoke during the public hearing.
Evelution Energy hopes to break ground at the end of this year or early 2024. And then it will take another year and a half to finish construction.
“I’m hoping it will be operational at some point in 2025, early 2026,” Alam said.
“It’s a great use of that area which has been neglected by industry for a long time because we haven’t had the water and the facilities and things to do things. This sounds like a really cool project. Thank you,” Mcdermott said.