NorthWest Copper exploring two other mining operations in area close to Takla Landing
The demand for copper continues to increase as the world attempts to ditch its dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable electric energy sources.
That global drain on copper supplies and a spike in market prices has peaked the interest of a Vancouver mining company exploring a region of the central Interior where core samples have revealed rich copper and gold deposits.
A mineral resource estimate update released this week for the 56,000 hectare Lorraine Project, 280 kilometers northwest of Prince George, is encouraging news for NorthWest Copper Corp., which has identified two other areas or copper-gold deposits in the same area.
Based on historic drilling samples obtained from 1949-2009, the Lorraine Project 50 km northeast of Takla Landing has revealed significant mineralization in shallow surface deposits. NorthWest plans to expand its drilling operations this summer to determine the feasibility of combining Lorraine with its other operations, 40 km to the south, to develop a permanent mine.
“It’s a project that’s been around for a long time, however, it is pretty close to our Kwanika-Stardust Project, so the proximity of all those things together makes them more interesting,” said company president and CEO Peter Bell.
“When you build a mine you need a combination of wealth, how much metal there is in each tonne of rock, and the more you make per tonne, the more profitable the operation is. But it needs to be a certain size in order to pay for building it, you need that combination.
“In this case, because we have these other projects in our portfolio, we end up with enough scale to make it viable. And because the rock is very rich, once you get an operation up and going, it’s likely to be profitable.”
If it leads to a mining project, the cost to develop it would be in the range of $500-600 million. Construction and the cost of operating a mine would create hundreds of jobs for many years in the region. As a job creator, Bell said it would be similar in scale to Mount Milligan. As with any mining operation, the company would first have to have the approval area First Nations and the province and then would then have to raise the money to develop it, which he said would take years.
The Lorraine mineral deposit is roughly two-thirds copper and one-third gold. Because the deposits are close to surface, the costs of extraction would be minimized and that adds to the potential of development. The area is also close to the CN rail line and provides access to BC Hydro power lines.
Another plus is there is a skilled workforce already employed at existing mines in the vicinity, such as Mount Milligan, which could help speed development of the project. NorthWest Copper already has close to 100 drillers, surveyors and geologists who started drilling at Kwanika on March 25.
The company in the development stage of another exploration project – East Niv – a new copper-gold discovery in 2021 in the same corridor further to the northwest. East Niv is close to the Kemess Underground Project being developed by Centerra Gold.
The global need for copper continues to increase while consumers switch to renewables such as electric vehicles and development of green energy is dependent on mining to create materials needed for electricity generation, transmission and storage.
The UN Forecast Policy Scenario predicts a substantial increase in electricity generation from renewable sources – hydro, wind and solar – which will also increase the demand for copper. Renewables are expected to become the largest global source of power and by 2050, providing 73 per cent of the world’s electricity, up from 25 per cent in 2020.
“This is a pretty special time in the mining business and copper is kind of at the core of electrifying the whole energy economy in the world,” said Bell. “If we’re going to wire up all these electric cars and all these things are going to reduce our use of fossil fuels, we need a lot of copper to do it, and BC is a great place to develop a project.”
“We’re in Canada, we’re in our own backyard. There’s ‘s lots of good infrastructure there and a history of mining and we have a lot of hydroelectric power, which is a great way to power an operation.”
Chile and Peru are the two largest copper producers but political unrest in both countries is putting pressure on mining producers. BC produces 54 percent of Canada’s copper and has more than 80 percent of the country’s copper reserves.
Market prices for copper have increased from $2.80 per pound in 2020 to the current $3.42, while the price of gold is about $2,218 per ounce.
Drilling at the Lorraine Project will start later this summer after the company upgrades a deactivated forest service road access and creates a camp for workers. NorthWest intends to spend $20 million this year to further explore the region.
Formerly known as Serengeti Resources Inc., the company merged with Sun Metals Corp. in March 2021 to become NorthWest Copper. Serengeti has been exploring the region since 2004. The merger joined Kwanika and Stardust into one project.
“The new value of NorthWest is in putting a bunch of projects together and achieving more scale than we had when things were all in separate hands,” said Bell.