Florence Copper ramps up after decades of preparation

In one of the longest, most thorough and detailed examinations of a mining project in the history of Arizona, Florence Copper has commenced operations at its Wellfield test facility in Florence, company officials announced.

It’s been two decades in the making to get to this milestone for the facility that is owned by the Canadian Taskeka Mines Limited.

Not only did it take years to adhere to all the necessary state and federal operating permits, but the company spent five years in litigation with the small town of Florence.

The town tried to block the mine’s temporary permit and claimed it had no historic right to the property.

Florence Copper has prevailed on both points. On Jan. 2 Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger E. Brodman ruled in favor of Florence Copper. Now, the town must reimburse the company for legal fees.

Company officers acknowledge it has been a long journey but every step was essential to ensure the protection of groundwater. The facility uses a low environmental impact process called “in situ” that involves dissolving copper underground into a liquid and pumping it to the surface.

“While it has taken us some time to get to this point with Florence, the additional time taken will ensure that the project generates strong returns for our shareholders and protects the environment to the highest standards for the local community,” Russell Hallbauer, President and CEO of Taseko, said in a statement issued last week. “We have always taken a disciplined and measured approach with all of our capital projects. We perform the necessary work to ensure our projects are technically sound, that we understand our capital commitments and that the environment is protected.”

With operating costs of $1.10 per pound of copper, a low capital cost intensity of $5,200 per ton of copper capacity and a pre-tax net present value of $920 million, the potential long term financial gain is promising, Hallbauer said.

Preliminary testing in the third quarter of 2018 revealed favorable results,  company officials said. The company is tapping into a rare natural copper deposit in Florence that contains 2.4 billion pounds of copper and 340 million tons of probable reserves.

The Wellfield test facility’s goal is to be fully operational for commercial production over the next 20 to 24 months, company officials said.

If successful, the commercial life of the project is expected to be 25 years. It is projected to produce 55 million pounds annually for the first six years and 85 million pounds annually for 14 years, company data shows.

Arizona would receive an economic uplift of $3.4 billion with $2.1 billion remaining in Pinal County. An estimated $468 million will go for state revenues and royalties. Approximately $68.5 million will be accrued by the Town of Florence.

Victoria Harker

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