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Highland Copper moves ahead with mine development

Two western UP projects eyed

By GRAHAM JAEHNIG

gjaehnig@mininggazette.com

Canadian-based Highland Copper Company is developing two mining projects in the Porcupine Mountains area, the Copperwood Mine, near Wakefield, and the former White Pine Mine.

In a Monday, July 24, press release, Highland Copper Company, a Canadian development and exploration company, announced its Preliminary Economic Assessment on the White Pine North mining project.

The PEA provides a base-case assessment of mining the mineral resources of the White Pine North Project, the report states. The PEA considers White Pine North as a stand-alone project (apart from Copperwood), where potential synergies with Copperwood are not considered.

The project is the extension of the historical White Pine mine which operated from 1953 to 1995. The results of the White Pine North PEA demonstrate the long-lived nature of the project with strong economics and cash flows.

In July 2021, Highland completed the acquisition of the White Pine North property from the Copper Range Company, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals Ltd.

The Longueuil, Quebec-based company also announced on Monday a joint venture agreement with Kinterra Copper USA to advance the development of the White Pine project.

With the joint venture agreement, Kinterra is investing $30 million for 66% of White Pine North, the Highland release states.

“The initial $30 million proceeds from the joint venture arrangement allow Highland to initiate early site works at the fully permitted Copperwood project, where Highland is focused on advancing to development and production,” the report states.

Highland owns both the Copperwood project and the White Pine North property.

On March 7, 2023, Highland released a statement announcing its Asset Development Strategy and the next steps at White Pine. Highland, the statement reported, intends to prioritize speed to production and cash flow by developing its other Michigan project, the fully permitted Copperwood project first, the March release said. The development of the White Pine North project, 37 miles from Copperwood, is expected to start soon after construction completion at Copperwood with the goal of incorporating key synergies in various cost areas.

The July 24 release states that the White Pine project is a major economic development opportunity for the Western Upper Peninsula. Once in operation, the project will create roughly 545 jobs, and provide a significant boost in local tax revenue and business spending during its estimated 21.8 year mine life.

While Highland states that it will continue to work with local stakeholders, to build the White Pine and Copperwood projects responsibly, both projects have met with determined opposition.

Protect the Porkies started a petition drive to halt the projects on change.org, on June 1.

“The value of a resource is determined in large part by its scarcity,” the petition states. “In the 21st century, the scarcest of all resources is access to pristine wilderness. Therefore, when a foreign company with zero mining experience wants to endanger the largest tract of mixed old growth forest remaining in the Midwest, all for the sake of copper – which just recently was rejected an upgrade of status to ‘critical mineral’ – it warrants our fiercest opposition.”

The US Geological Society in May denied a bipartisan request to add copper to its official critical mineral list. The request was made by the Copper Development Association due to a “dramatic supply risk.” The denial has sparked international criticism.

A March 13 Northern Ontario Business report stated that mining industry analysts are predicting a global run on copper ahead of an anticipated across-the-board supply crunch of high-tech metals. There’s a scramble by U.S. manufacturers to secure domestic sources of these metals, used in electric vehicle batteries and many digital consumer items.

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