“As we settle into 2013, the outlook for one of BC's most important industries looks very bright,” Gavin Dirom, president and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia said in a Northern Miner commentary last month. “As explorers and developers competing internationally for investment, we know that the best indicator of successful mineral exploration and development is seeing a new mine open.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers also said in the latest BC mining survey released last year that followers of copper should be “heartened by the fact that most of the major new mines under construction or in the advanced permitting stage feature copper as their primary metal.”
Copper mines coming online in BC in the near term include: Thompson Creek Metals' (TSX:TCM) $1.5-billion Mt. Milligan copper and gold project and Imperial Metals' (TSX:III) C$443-million Red Chris copper and gold project in northwest BC. Commercial production at Mt. Milligan is planned for the fourth quarter. The mine is estimated to produce 81 million pounds of copper and 194,000 ounces of gold per year over a 22-year mine life, yielding $565 million in cash revenue each year, according to the company's latest presentation. Red Chris, in Northwestern BC, is set to start commercial production in the first quarter of 2014, producing up to 40 million tons per year over 28 years. A year ago, the company raised the measured and indicated copper estimate by 72 percent to 8.89 billion pounds and the gold estimate by 80 percent to 12.9 million ounces of gold. The annual net present value of Red Chris is estimated at $1.21 billion. At that rate, the project would be paid off within four and a half years. A little further down the line is Copper Fox Metals' (TSXV:CUU) $3.26 billion Schaft Creek copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project, estimated to produce a total of 4.88 billion pounds of copper and 4.21 million ounces of gold over a 21-year mine life, starting in 2019. Schaft's annual net present value is estimated to be $513 million at an average copper price of $3.25 per pound. Yellowhead Mining's (TSX:YMI) Harper Creek deposit in south-central BC contains copper, gold and silver mineralization. According to a 2012 feasibility study, the mine is expected to produce 3.63 billion pounds of copper, 372,000 ounces of gold and 14 million ounces of silver in concentrate over its 28-year life. Yellowhead is currently conducting infill drilling to upgrade the resource within the pit area. Pacific Booker Minerals (TSXV:BKM) is developing the Morrison deposit, a copper-gold-molybdenum porphyry in north-central BC. The mine has recoverable metal of 1.37 billion pounds copper, 658,090 oz gold and 10.047 million pounds moly. The project hit a snag last year, however, when the BC government denied an environmental assessment certificate on concerns that the project could endanger salmon in the Skeena River. BKM responded by saying that its own environmental assessment concluded that predicted metal concentrations in Morrison Lake are below provincial water quality guidelines, and that adverse effects are therefore negligible.