Global Copper Snapshot: Companies developing the next generation of copper assets

Copper demand is expected to grow over the coming years, as the world continues the transition to electric-powered vehicles. However, many industry watchers have noticed a scarcity of pre-production copper assets for this expanding market. Below, we provide an overview of seven companies working to advance copper projects around the world. 

Carube Copper

The contact between Main Ridge's hematite and oxidized breccia stockwork zone. Credit: Carube Copper.

The contact between Main Ridge’s hematite and oxidized breccia stockwork zone. Credit: Carube Copper.

Carube Copper (TSXV: CUC) is focused on copper and gold exploration in Canada, Jamaica and Peru.

The company’s holdings in Jamaica consist of 11 licenses, which cover a total area of 536 sq. km. These include the wholly owned Bellas Gate, Main Ridge, Hungry Gully and Arthurs Seat properties. Bellas Gate, northwest of Kingston, is made up of two licenses and totals 84 square kilometres. According to Carube, this project features porphyry, epithermal, skarn, oxide and IOCG (iron oxide copper gold) deposit targets with over 40 prospects. These include the Provost area, within a 5-km long trend host to porphyry systems, where drilling completed in 2016 returned 339 metres of 0.34% copper-equivalent as well as 82 metres of 0.46% copper-equivalent. Drilling completed in 2014 within the Connors area also intersected copper-gold porphyry mineralization.

In Nova Scotia, Carube holds a 100% interest in the Stewart Brook gold project, which covers 46 sq. km and is on strike with St. Barbara’s (ASX: SBM) Cochrane Hill deposit. This site features a gold-in-till anomaly over an area of 8,000 metres by 4,000 metres and lies within 5 km of three historical gold districts.

The company’s projects in B.C. include Rogers Creek, Mackenzie and Salal within the Cascade magmatic arc, an emerging copper-gold porphyry belt in the southwestern part of the province. Rogers Creek was optioned to Tocvan Ventures (CSE: TOC) back in 2018: Tocvan may earn up to an 80% interest in this property by spending $1.9 million on exploration, making a $25,000 cash payment and issuing 1.3 million of its shares to Carube over a four-year period. Carube holds a 100% interest in the Mackenzie project in southwest B.C., where the Bornite trend is a priority target for copper exploration. Bornite was discovered in 2012 and extends over 7.5 km – additional mapping and sampling is planned to further define this area.

In February, Carube added the 57-sq.-km Jasperoide copper-gold project in southern Peru to its portfolio. This asset lies within the Andahuaylas-Yauri belt, host to several operating mines. High-grade copper-gold skarns have been traced over 3 km of strike at the site. According to Carube, the geology at Jasperoide is analogous to that at the nearby Minmetals’ (a Chinese state-owned corporation) Las Bambas and Hudbay’s (TSX, NYSE: HBM) Constancia copper mines. Carube has a 100% interest in eight of the Jasperoide claims, may earn up to a 100% interest over the next four years in two concessions and has the option to earn a 51% interest in three concessions.

Carube Copper has an $18.2-million market capitalization.

Crown Mining

Crown Mining’s Moonlight-Superior property in northeastern California. Credit: Crown Mining.

Crown Mining’s Moonlight-Superior property in northeastern California. Credit: Crown Mining.

Crown Mining (TSXV: CWM) is working to advance its 39-sq.-km Moonlight-Superior copper project in northeast California’s Plumas County. This project is within the past-producing Lights Creek copper district, which generated approximately 161 million lb. copper between 1915 and 1930 from the Superior and Engels mines. Placer Amex explored the property between 1960 and 1972 and drilled over 400 holes at the site.

There are three iron-oxide-copper-gold deposits at the site: Moonlight, Superior and Engels. Moonlight features 154 million indicated tonnes grading 0.29% copper and a further 62 million inferred tonnes at 0.29% copper. Superior includes an inferred resource of 57 million tonnes at 0.41% copper. At Engels, oxide inferred resources consist of 2.5 million tonnes at 1.05% copper. Each of the three deposits includes prospects for resource expansion with drill-ready oxide and sulphide targets nearby. In addition, none of the deposits have been drilled at depth.

The historic work completed by Amex outlined near-surface oxide copper material at Moonlight with thicknesses estimated at around 18 metres to 24 metres.

A preliminary economic assessment (PEA) published in 2018 for the Moonlight deposit outlined a 17-year, 54,431 tonne per day open pit operation, producing 1.5 billion lb. copper over its life at total life-of-mine operating costs of US$7.04 per tonne. With an initial capital cost estimate of US$513 million, the after-tax net present value estimate for the project, at an 8% discount rate, came in at US$179 million with a 14.6% internal rate of return.

Crown has identified additional opportunities for resource growth at the Blue Copper, Copper Mountain, Osmeyer, Lamb’s Ridge and Warren Creek areas within the project grounds.

Crown Mining has a $1.8-million market capitalization.

Euro Sun Mining

Euro Sun Mining (TSX: ESM) is focused on copper and gold projects in Romania. The company’s principal asset is the wholly owned, 28-sq.-km Rovina Valley project in south-central Romania, 300 km from Bucharest, the capital city. Rovina Valley lies within the Golden Quadrilateral historic mining district in the Carpathian fold belt, which has been producing gold for over 2,000 years, and has year-round road access.

Based on a resource update completed last year, total measured and indicated resources at the property stand at 396.4 million tonnes grading 0.55 gram gold per tonne and 0.16% copper for a total of 7.1 million contained gold oz. and 1.4 billion lb. copper. These resources are contained within two proposed open pits and one underground deposit: the Rovina, Colnic and Ciresata porphyries, which cover a 7.5-km long trend.

In February 2019, Euro Sun announced the results of a PEA on the development of the Colnic open pit, as part of the first phase of the Rovina Valley project. The early-stage study outlined a 20,000-tonne-per-day operation, producing an average of 139,000 oz. gold-equivalent a year over a 12-year mine life. With an all-in sustaining cost estimate of US$752 per oz. and initial total capital costs of US$352 million, the resulting after-tax net present value estimate for this development stands at US$169 million, at a 5% discount rate, with a 13.5% internal rate of return.

Colnic contains about 29% of the total measured and resources at Rovina Valley. According to Euro Sun, Rovina and Colnic also host higher-grade areas of mineralization, which outcrop at surface.

In November 2018, the company received the mining license for Rovina Valley, which allows Euro Sun to start an environmental impact assessment and urbanization certificate – both of these are underway. To move to the construction stage, the company needs to obtain two certificates: the area land use plan and the project technical design, which lead to the issue of a construction permit.

A bankable feasibility study is underway with results expected by the end of this year.

Euro Sun also holds the 42-sq.-km Stanija prospect, 3 km east of Rovina Valley, with two porphyry exploration targets.

In June, the company closed a $22.3-million bought deal financing, with proceeds intended for exploration and development at Rovina Valley.

Euro Sun Mining has a $36-million market capitalization.

Josemaria Resources

Josemaria Resources (TSX: JOSE), part of the Lundin Group, is working to advance the Josemaria copper-gold deposit in Argentina’s San Juan province, 170 km from Copiapo in Chile. After completing a prefeasibility study for the wholly owned project in November 2018, the company is working to deliver a feasibility study by year-end.

The 2018 prefeasibility outlined a 150,000 tonne per day, 20-year open-pit operation using autonomous haul trucks. The mine would produce an average of 125,000 tonnes copper, 230,000 oz. gold and 790,000 oz. silver per year at life-of-mine cash costs of $1.26 per lb. copper, after by-product credits. Based on an initial capital cost estimate of $2.8 billion, the after-tax net present value estimate for this project, at an 8% discount rate, stands at $2 billion with an 18.7% internal rate of return and a 3.4-year payback period.

The probable reserves for the Josemaria porphyry deposit stand at 1 billion tonnes grading 0.29% copper, 0.21 gram gold and 0.92 gram silver, or 0.41% copper-equivalent, containing 6.5 billion lb. copper, 6.5 million oz. gold and 28.8 million oz. silver.

Technical work for the feasibility study is underway, led by the engineering team at Fluor Canada. In the first quarter of this year, Josemaria collected field data for this study. In Argentina, Ausenco is compiling baseline data for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project to support future permitting.

At the end of May, the company entered into credit facilities totalling US$7 million with affiliates of the Lundin family. Proceeds are intended for the ongoing feasibility study and ESIA work.

Josemaria Resources has a $168.8-million market capitalization.

Libero Copper & Gold

Libero Copper & Gold (TSXV: LBC) holds porphyry copper and gold assets in the Americas. In 2018, the company acquired the Mocoa deposit in Colombia, nearby the Ecuadorian border, from B2 Gold (TSX: BTO; NYSE-AM: BTG) in exchange for an equity stake in Libero – B2 currently holds an 8% stake in the company. The Mocoa porphyry includes an inferred resource of 636 million tonnes grading 0.33% copper, 0.036% molybdenum, or 0.45% copper-equivalent, containing 4.6 billion lb. copper and 511 million lb. molybdenum.

Mocoa lies within the Jurassic porphyry belt, host to several large-scale producing porphyry copper deposits. It covers an area of approximately 1.2 km by 1.4 km and extends down to a depth of over 1 km. Libero has also identified a copper-in-soil anomaly 500 metres to the east of the proposed pit outline.

In southwestern Colorado, the company holds the 4.1-sq.-km Tomichi project, 50 km east of Gunnison. The inferred resource for the Tomichi deposit features 711 million tonnes grading 0.21% copper, 0.035% molybdenum, 0.017 gram gold and 2 grams silver, or 0.33% copper-equivalent, containing 5.1 billion lb. copper-equivalent. This deposit covers an area of approximately 550 metres by 825 metres, extends down to a depth of over 600 metres below surface and remains open. Tomichi was initially drilled in the 1950s, which was followed by additional drilling over the next few decades. The latest work on this deposit was done in 2012, with five diamond drill holes.

Libero’s 260-sq.-km Big Red project in B.C. lies within the province’s prospective Golden Triangle area, 45 km southwest of Telegraph Creek.  In February 2019, the company entered into an option agreement to acquire a 100% interest in Big Red by issuing 2 million of its shares and making total cash payments of $440,000 over a four-year period.

There are currently 19 porphry gold-copper as well as epithermal gold exploration targets at the project with a 15 km by 5 km magnetic high, which coincides with anomalous potassium, gold and copper values in rock samples.

This summer, Libero plans to complete the first phase of drilling at the Ridge high-grade gold target within Big Red, with four, 300-metre long holes scheduled.

In June, Libero closed a $4-million private placement; proceeds are intended for drilling the Ridge gold target and for corporate purposes.

Libero Copper & Gold has a $14-million market capitalization.

Orestone Mining

Orestone Mining (TSXV: ORS) is focused on gold and copper exploration in B.C. and Chile.

The company has the option to earn a 100% interest in the 29-sq.-km Resguardo project, 75 km northeast of Copiapo in northern Chile, within a porphyry copper belt host to several large-scale copper mines. The mineral concessions include a number of historic workings targeting oxide copper. Copper and gold were previously mined at the site from an open pit covering an area of 150 metres by 60 metres as well as from underground tunnels.

In September 2018, Orestone signed an option to purchase agreement for Resguardo – it may earn a 100% interest in the property over a five-year period by making cash payments totalling US$5 million and completing 2,000 metres of drilling.

The surface oxide copper mineralization at Resguardo overlies a geophysical anomaly that is 300 metres to 600 metres wide and 1,000 metres long, with potential for an untested sulphide copper porphyry at depth. The company’s near-term exploration plans include drill testing of this target.

Orestone also has a 100% interest in the 72-sq.-km Captain property in B.C.’s Quesnel Trough, host to several copper, gold and molybdenum deposits. This project is 150 km to the north of Prince George and has year-round road access and infrastructure nearby.

Last year’s drill program at Captain focused on two targets and one of these targets – T2 – returned 91 metres of 0.26 gram gold and 0.065% copper starting at 112 metres, including a higher-grade interval of 24 metres grading 0.56 gram gold and 0.112% copper. According to the company, this copper-gold mineralization is similar to that found at Centerra Gold’s (TSX: CG) nearby Mt. Milligan mine, 30 km to the north of Captain.

There are nine magnetic target areas outlined at Captain, which are around a diorite intrusive – two of these have been tested to date.

In June, Orestone closed an $850,000 private placement, with net proceeds intended for exploration at both Resguardo and Captain as well as for corporate purposes.

Orestone Mining has a $4.9-million market capitalization.

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