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Arizona copper mine reports test facility is operational

FLORENCE, Ariz. — A copper mine southeast of Phoenix is ready to begin working toward commercial production following the initial success of its small-scale test phase, mine officials said.

Florence Copper’s production test facility has become fully operational, expecting to produce about 1 million pounds (450,000 kilograms) of copper during the yearlong test phase, the Florence Reminder and Blade-Tribune reported Thursday.

The facility owned by Taseko Mines Ltd. expects to produce about 85 million pounds (38 million kilograms) of copper each year for two decades if it obtains the necessary state and federal permits to enter commercial production.

The mine uses a process that involves injecting a sulfuric acid solution underground to dissolve the copper so it can be pumped to the surface for processing.

“As expected, and reported in our 2017 technical report, the initial leaching period has taken approximately three months and all results are in line with expectations,” said Russell Hallbauer, president and CEO of Taseko. “The scale up from our laboratory and feasibility testing to the commercial scale has been relatively seamless.”

This method of mining has drawn opposition by some who say the process could contaminate the area’s groundwater. Hallbauer disputed the concerns, saying the mine has demonstrated it is able to maintain control.

“The data we continue to collect from the many observation, monitoring and point-of-compliance wells is demonstrating the integrity of our injection and recovery process,” Hallbauer said in a statement. “Not only is the data proving that we are able to maintain hydraulic control of the leach solution underground, but it is providing valuable data to validate our leach model as well as optimize well designs and performance and hydraulic control parameters.”

The mine is looking to start construction on the commercial facility sometime in the next year.

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Information from: Casa Grande Dispatch.

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