By Mark Cowling for Casa Grande Dispatch
A second in-situ copper project, similar to the one proposed in Florence, may begin operations soon in southern Arizona.
The Gunnison Copper Project would be located 65 miles southeast of Tucson, between Benson and Willcox, in the Texas Canyon area. The tiny unincorporated town of Dragoon is about 5 miles to the south.
“This is a big part of our story: We’re in a part of the state that’s not heavily populated; there’s no water wells immediately around us; we can’t contaminate anyone’s water,” said J.J. Jennex, vice president of corporate affairs for Excelsior Mining, the Canadian company behind the project. “We’ve just entered the permitting phase, but from a permitting perspective we think we’ve got an ideal situation.”
That’s not to say the plan to leach copper from the ground has no detractors. An opposition website, dragoonconservationalliance.org, invites residents to get involved, attend meetings and say “no” to the project.
Excelsior has no affiliation with Vancouver-based Taseko Mines, owner of Florence Copper Project.
As in Florence, the Gunnison project is seeking state and federal permits to mine. While Florence company officials hope they’re close to obtaining the permits needed to begin a test phase, Gunnison’s permitting has only begun. According to the Excelsior website, its permits have passed “administrative review,” the first stage of the permitting process.
Gunnison is expected to be in commercial production for 24 years, approximately the same length of time as Florence Copper Project.
Gunnison Copper Project will use facilities at the adjacent Johnson Camp Mine to manufacture its copper. “We’ve recently purchased the Johnson Camp Mine, and that will serve as our initial production facility. There’s a capacity there of 25 million pounds per annum,” Jennex said.
Excelsior is looking for investors in the Gunnison Project.
“We think it’s a great project; we believe it’s completely undervalued today,” Jennex said. Initial capital cost for startup Phase 1 production is $45M, he said.
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