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Oracle Ridge copper, silver mine receives OK to reopen

Keywords: Tags  Oracle Ridge, copper, silver, Doug Nicholson, Augusta Resources, Rosemont Project, Ray Carroll, Leanna Orr


NEW YORK — The Oracle Ridge copper and silver mine in southern Arizona has been cleared for reopening by Pima County officials after 16 years of dormancy.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oracle Mining Corp. expects to secure all environmental approvals by early 2013 and to begin construction immediately thereafter, according to chief executive officer Doug Nicholson.

"Metal markets are good right now, and Oracle Ridge stands out," Nicholson told AMM. "It’s a high 2.3-percent-purity copper mine with not an insignificant amount of silver."

On Wednesday, Oracle executives signed a memorandum of understanding prepared by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, agreeing to 15 conditions involving job creation, environmental stewardship and cooperation with local regulators. The supervisors then voted unanimously to approve the project.

The mine in the Santa Catalina Mountains operated on and off from the late 19th century until 1996, when it shut down completely due to low copper prices.

Nicholson said the junior mining firm has secured an air permit, submitted an aquifer protection application for technical review, and has a special-use permit pending with the U.S. Forest Service. Oracle is also drilling for samples at the site for an ongoing feasibility study.

The company has arranged a $70-million loan from Credit Suisse to fund the project, Nicholson said.

Nicholson anticipates an annual production of 25 million to 30 million pounds of copper, as well as about 360,000 ounces of silver, with a mine life of 11 years.

The Pima County board is also involved in the approval process for Augusta Resource Corp.’s proposed Rosemont copper project (AMM, July 9).


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