- McEwen Mining, an asset-rich diversified gold and copper producer that owns a 52% stake in McEwen Copper, recently released the results of an updated Preliminary Economic Assessment (“2023 PEA”)
- The 2023 PEA documented, among others, an updated independent mineral resource estimate and a base case development strategy that is distinctly different from that proposed in the 2017 PEA
- The recent PEA proposes the development of an open pit mine with crushing, heap leaching, and solvent extraction and electrowinning (“SW/EW”) facilities to process the mined materials, producing copper cathodes that meet LME Copper Grade A quality standards
- The updated development strategy is expected to reduce fresh water consumption by ~75%, electricity consumption by ~75%, and greenhouse gas emissions by ~57%
- McEwen Mining is confident that once implemented, the proposal will make the Los Azules copper cathodes attractive to end users looking to measurably reduce their upstream environmental impacts
As industries seek to decarbonize and transition toward net zero, electrification ranks among the top strategies being considered and implemented. A cornerstone of these efforts, copper is garnering interest, with forecasts showing that demand will double to 50 million tons by 2050 from 2020 levels (https://ibn.fm/xprgL). Chief among the drivers is that copper is an essential raw material used to manufacture components and equipment for energy generation and transmission, digital applications, and electronics. In fact, according to Shehzad Bharmal, Chairman of the International Copper Association (“ICA”), “Copper is the catalyst at the heart of the energy transition, with two-thirds of the technologies for decarbonization requiring coppers as a core component” (https://ibn.fm/HcmPs).
In line with the decarbonization efforts and amid the surging demand, some copper producers are working to reduce the environmental impacts of their activities to potentially make themselves and/or their products attractive to environmentally-conscious downstream customers and/or investors. The consciousness around companies’ environmental footprint has also roped in companies like McEwen Mining (NYSE: MUX) (TSX: MUX), an asset-rich diversified gold and copper producer with operations in Nevada, Canada, Mexico, and Argentina, and its 52%-owned McEwen Copper subsidiary.
McEwen Mining recently released the results of an updated Preliminary Economic Assessment (“2023 PEA”) on the 100% McEwen Copper-owned Los Azules Copper Project in San Juan, Argentina, documenting an updated base case development strategy, which is starkly different from that presented in the previous PEA published in 2017, as well as an updated independent mineral resource estimate (https://ibn.fm/mNXPs).
On its part, the 2017 PEA selected a strategy that proposed the construction of a mine with a conventional mill and flotation concentrator that produces a concentrate primarily for export to international smelters. In contrast, the 2023 PEA proposes a Phase 1 implementation strategy that includes the development of an open pit mine with crushing, heap leaching, and solvent extraction and electrowinning (“SW/EW”) facilities to process the mined materials, producing copper cathodes that meet London Metals Exchange (“LME”) Copper Grade A quality standards for sale in Argentina or international markets.
The selection of the updated implementation strategy rode on three primary principles, chief among them the environmental footprint. Compared to the conventional milling and treatment strategy in the 2017 PEA, the proposed heap leach project is set to reduce fresh water consumption by approximately 75% (from 600 to 150 L/s) and electricity consumption by about 75% (from 230 to 57 MW). The updated strategy is also expected to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by approximately 57% from 1,560 to 670 CO2e/t Cu. McEwen Copper is also considering paths to further reduce GHG emissions by implementing new technologies, with the goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2038 with some offsets. One of these paths might be the potential deployment of Nuton(TM), a portfolio of proprietary copper bio-heap leach-related technologies.
Last August, McEwen Copper and Nuton LLC, a Rio Tinto Venture, entered into a collaboration agreement to test the viability of Nuton(TM) (https://ibn.fm/vD2i9). According to the press release announcing the results of the 2023 PEA, Nuton(TM) provides a “significant opportunity to optimize the mine plan and the overall mining and processing operations. In addition, Nuton(TM) provides other significant benefits, such as lower overall energy consumption, allowing earlier conversion to renewable energy sources, and lower water consumption than conventional sulfide mineralization treatment processes.”
However, McEwen Copper does not currently have a commercial agreement with Nuton that sanctions the deployment of the technologies at the Los Azules Project. Still, the two companies intend to work in good faith toward such an agreement, although there is no guarantee that it will come to fruition.
McEwen Copper is nonetheless still positioned to make remarkable progress through the implementation of its proposed strategy, the additional efforts and potential agreement notwithstanding. The company is confident this strategy will make the Los Azules copper cathodes attractive to end users looking to measurably reduce their upstream environmental impacts.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.McEwenMining.com.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to MUX are available in the company’s newsroom at http://ibn.fm/MUX
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