Vancouver-based Taseko Mines (TSX: TKO) has cleared the last hurdle to move its Florence copper project in Arizona towards commercial production, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final permit for the project.
The Underground Injection Control Permit makes of Florence, located about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, one of a very few construction-ready, fully permitted copper projects in North America, the company said.
“With approvals in place from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and now the EPA, we can commence construction of the Florence Copper commercial production facility,” President and CEO Stuart McDonald said in the statement.
“This achievement is a major stride forward and a result of Taseko’s long-term approach to project development, environmental protection, and community engagement”, Taseko’s boss noted.
With procurement well advanced, the Vancouver-based miner said the next steps will be mobilization of contractors for the wellfield and plant construction.
“We continue to advance discussions with potential lenders and royalty providers for the remainder of the project financing package and expect to have additional commitments in place before construction spending ramps up,” Stuart said.
The project has faced backlash from locals over its potential environmental impact, but the company has continuously addressed concerns, which led it to obtain a draft permit for Florence in August last year.
According to Taseko, Florence has one of the least capital-intensive copper production facilities in the world, and when fully ramped up, will produce 85 million pounds of copper (about 38,000 tonnes) annually over a 22-year mine life for the US domestic market.
The company said it expects the project to have the lowest energy and greenhouse gas intensity of any copper producer in North America. Florence is also expected to reduce the US’ reliance on foreign producers for supplies of a metal considered to be critical for the transition to a low-carbon economy.