North America's Largest Copper Mine Nears Go Ahead
One of the most significant undeveloped copper deposits in the world--what Rio Tinto calls its Resolution Copper project--received permitting from the US Forest Service, the mining giant announced last week.
The US Forest Service issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The permit moves the technically-challenging Arizona project closer to development.
Rio Tinto said the publication of the DEIS triggers a further public consultation process over a 90-day period, which will inform the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the next steps in the permitting process for the project.
Rio Tinto said the project's partners will have spent over $2 billion by 2020 to develop and permit the Resolution copper project, including $302 million of additional expenditure approved earlier this year.
"Achieving this significant milestone in the rigorous US permitting process allows us to continue progressing one of the world's most significant untapped copper deposits towards development," said Rio Tinto chief executive Copper & Diamonds Arnaud Soirat.
"Resolution has the potential to supply up to 25% of the United States' copper demand and complements Rio Tinto's other copper projects."
Rio Tinto said the proposed underground mine is expected to become the largest copper mine in North America.
Technical challenges developing the mine are significant. Rio Tinto said Resolution will be the deepest block cave at about 2 km deep. It will also be one of the hottest with temperatures ranging between 76° to 82° celsius.
"This is a highly complex and challenging mining activity due to space restriction, potential excessive groundwater and poor ventilation," said Rio Tinto on its website.
Resolution Copper Mining is 55% owned by Rio Tinto and 45% by BHP Billiton.