REPORT: Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton Closer to Developing the Largest Copper Mine in U.S.
Lawmakers in Arizona have revived a bill that would allow Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) and BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) to jointly build a massive copper mine (the biggest in the United States) in southeast Arizona.
The controversial bill – H.R. 687 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 -would authorize a subsidiary of Rio Tinto to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state.
Lawmakers added the land-swap bill late Tuesday night into the 1,600-page National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense appropriation legislation that must be passed each year.
The Resolution Copper project, which is a 55 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 45 percent owned by BHP, could start as early as 2020 if everything goes according to plan. However, legal hurdles and opposition could derail the massive project.
The massive underground copper mine has been fiercely opposed by southwestern nations like the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Sierra Club in the past, who fear the mine would devastate the water and land on Oak Flats – part of the Apaches’ ancestral territory.
“This land swap has faced a long and bumpy road in Congress,” Caitlin Webber, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst said.
“Finally being tucked into this must-pass bill is the closest it’s been to enactment,” she added.
If the Resolution Copper project does come to fruition, it is expected to create 3,700 direct and indirect jobs and bring more than $6 billion in economic benefits to the state over its 66-year life span.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.