The Project

Overview

Florence Copper is located in the historic Copper Corridor of Arizona – a region steeped in copper mining history. The project offers a unique opportunity to provide strong economic benefits to the community of Florence and the State of Arizona with minimal environmental impact. During its lifetime, Florence Copper is estimated to create close to 500 jobs for Pinal County and generate $3.4 billion in economic activity for Arizona.

Florence Copper is not a mine in the traditional sense. No massive hole is dug in the ground, no waste piles are created, no smelters are used, no blasting is done – none of the traditional mining activity is used for this project. Florence Copper recovers the mineral using advanced technology called in-situ copper recovery (ISCR) that has an extremely small environmental footprint.

The ISCR process occurs 1,200 feet below ground in a bedrock layer beneath the lower aquifer unit. A solution (similar in pH to common household vinegar) is pumped under low pressure to dissolve the copper within the copper oxide zone. Copper-rich solution is then pumped to the surface through recovery wells for processing into 99.999% pure copper cathode sheets using an electro-chemical process that separates the copper from the solution. The solution is recycled into the deposit and the process repeats.

This is all possible because the copper deposit in Florence is rare. In-situ copper recovery requires unique hydrogeological conditions that happen to be in Florence. Unlike orebodies that are made up of solid rock, this deposit is naturally porous and shattered, allowing the extraction solution to easily flow through it. This means the copper can be extracted without the use of pressure.

Florence Copper operated a successful Production Test Facility (PTF) for over 18 months. The purpose of the PTF was to demonstrate that copper ore can safely be extracted using in-situ copper recovery (ISCR) technology so that the much larger full-scale project could advance forward. The goal has been met.

With the integrity and reliability of in-situ copper recovery now proven, Florence Copper is well on its way to move to commercial production. Once final permits are issued, Florence Copper will invest a another $230 million to build the facilities necessary to support commercial production. This means close to 800 direct and indirect jobs, $2.1 billion in economic activity, $1.98 billion in personal income, and $468 million in taxes and royalties – all for Arizona.

Advantages of ISCR

A low-carbon, clean-energy future depends on copper. Copper is needed for wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and more. There is no metal more vital to powering the green economy than copper.

Copper is called the "green" metal. It is 100% recyclable. It’s a renewable, sustainable resource. At Florence, the deposit contains 2.4 billion pounds of copper within 340 million tons of probable reserves.

Compared to conventional open-pit or underground mining operations, the environmental impacts of ISCR are significantly reduced. Water consumption is fourteen times lower, carbon emissions are six times lower, and energy consumption is three times lower. And once the copper extraction process is complete, the land will look much as it does today and can be used in a variety of ways: parkland, residential housing, manufacturing activities, or simply returned to its natural desert landscape.

The Production Test Facility

Florence Copper operated an 18-month, small-scale Production Test Facility (PTF) in Florence, Arizona that successfully demonstrated copper ore can safely be extracted from up to 1,200 feet below ground using the revolutionary ISCR mining process.

The facility operated under stringent permit conditions set by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Florence Copper demonstrated full hydraulic control of the solutions used to dissolve copper in the bedrock and ensured protection of underground sources of drinking water.

Operational and environmental monitoring confirmed successful wellfield hydraulic performance and that copper can be produced from the oxide zone of the ore body. Environmental monitoring throughout the operations demonstrated compliance with permit requirements.

The project demonstrated that ISCR technology is a green production method for the green metal of the future: Small environmental footprint, numerous site redevelopment opportunities post closure, lower energy requirements than conventional mining, limited land disturbance, and low fugitive dust emissions. The results have proven the process to be environmentally sound: Mining solutions were controlled; there was no negative impact on drinking water; the science, engineering, and modeling were proven to be accurate; and overall, the project was an unqualified success.

  • Millions of gallons of water were conserved because the ISCR process recycles water multiple times, thus using significantly less water than traditional mining.
  • Tons of carbon emissions were avoided because haul trucks and combustion engines common in traditional mining were not used.
  • Hundreds of megawatts of electricity were saved because the heavy, electric-dependent equipment used by traditional mines was not used.

The PTF produced more than one million pounds of copper and proved that the science and engineering worked.

With the integrity and reliability of in-situ copper recovery now proven, Florence Copper is well on its way to move to commercial production. 

Water Protection

There will be no impact on local water quality or quantity.

The ISCR process occurs from 400 to 1,200 feet below ground in a bedrock layer beneath the lower aquifer unit where drinking water supplies are withdrawn. The in-situ process uses a mild mixture of 99.5% water and 0.5% sulfuric acid that slowly dissolves copper in the bedrock. This diluted solution, which is the same acidic strength as common household vinegar, is pumped under low pressure through injection wells to dissolve the copper within the copper oxide zone. Copper-rich solution is pumped to the surface through recovery wells for processing into pure copper cathode sheets. Multiple monitoring wells placed just outside of the project area ensure that the water quality outside the ore body is not impacted.


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