The Resolution Copper project in Arizona achieved a major permitting milestone on Aug. 9 when the U.S. Forest Service released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the project. The rigorous, independently prepared review was conducted over six years and its release triggers a 90-day public consultation about the proposed copper mine.
Rio Tinto chief executive Copper & Diamonds Arnaud Soirat said “This an important milestone for Resolution, with the future development of the project being shaped by years of engagement with the local community and extensive independent study by the U.S. Forest Service.
“Achieving this significant milestone in the rigorous U.S. permitting process allows us to continue progressing one of the world’s most significant untapped copper deposits toward development. Resolution has the potential to supply up to 25 percent of the United States’ copper demand and complements Rio Tinto’s other copper projects,” said Soirat said in a statement.
The proposed mine, 55 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 45 percent by BHP, has spent years waiting for clearance from U.S. authorities to develop the underground mine.
Estimates so far suggest it could produce 40 billion pounds of copper over a 40 year-period.
U.S. Forest Service documents also say that minerals on the U.S. critical minerals list such as cobalt, manganese and vanadium could be present in “elevated concentrations” at Resolution.
Rio Tinto and BHP will have spent more than $2 billion to develop and permit the project by 2020, which is the deadline for the Forest Service to produce a final environmental impact survey, Reuters reported.
The in-depth review from the Forest Service lays out the environmental challenges, solutions to them and benefits of the mine and is part of the final regulatory phase the project needs to clear.
“Rio Tinto will be well positioned to benefit from this demand outlook and to provide North American manufacturers with the materials that are essential to their products,” he said.
Mining projects notoriously take longer than expected and Rio Tinto’s share price has been hit by delays at its giant underground copper expansion project Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia.