FAQ’s Regarding In-Situ Leaching (“ISL”)
The Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”) completed on the Van Dyke copper deposit contemplates using the ISL method to dissolve and recover copper from bedrock; a process that is currently used extensively for several types of mineral deposits in the United States and around the world over the past several decades.
The PEA recommends additional drilling to expand the size of the resource and a pilot leach test for which Copper Fox will need to obtain permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of these permits is to demonstrate that the ISL process can be operated safely and in compliance with environmental legislation prior to making a production decision for the project.
Q. What are the benefits for Miami and Area?
The Van Dyke project will provide significant economic benefit to Miami and surrounding area. Although a lot more test work and engineering has to be completed, the consultants who have reviewed the project have completed a preliminary risk/benefit analysis and support the proposed plan for the Van Dyke copper project. The businesses in the area such as mining contractors as well as town of Miami and surrounding municipalities should see a direct benefit from this project due to employment and increased services. The project is in its early stages but currently project that a significant number of safe, stable, high paying, skilled and semi-skilled jobs would be required should the project proceed to production. Our unique approach of placing a considerable amount of the facilities underground will minimize surface disturbance to the town of Miami.
Q. What types of jobs would the Van Dyke Project create?
The PEA projects that about 130 direct jobs and about 400 indirect jobs would be created during production. Positions for various trades including welders, electricians, shift supervisors, maintenance personnel, security guards, accountants, administrative assistants, safety coordinators and contractors would be required. Copper Fox’s local hire policy will emphasize the recruitment of employees from Miami, Globe, Superior and other areas of Arizona for these positions.
Q. Can people comment on this project?
Yes, the people of Miami and surrounding communities will have ample opportunity to review and ask questions related to the Van Dyke project. The Van Dyke project will need to obtain its main permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to demonstrate that the proposed five well test program can be operated in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. These agencies reach out to the local communities and provide opportunities for the public to question and comment on proposed plan and decisions the agencies are considering. Both agencies establish public comment periods and input from the public is incorporated prior to permits being issued. While the Town Council is not required to make a decision on the Van Dyke project, Copper Fox encourages the Town of Miami and the general public to reach out for more information on the project and ask whatever questions they may have.
Q. What effect will this project have on property values in Miami?
The Van Dyke has been mined in the past using underground and ISL mining methods. If the project proceeds to the production stage, the direct and indirect jobs created should be good for Miami-Globe and surrounding areas in the form of salaries, increases services, increased job opportunities and local and municipal taxes. The PEA proposed to extract the copper using ISL by driving a decline to a minimum depth of 800 feet below the town of Miami and using this decline to establish the injection and recovery wells. This is a more environmentally friendly method that minimizes surface impact, disturbance to ground water, people, or land near the project. On completion of operations, the surface and underground portions of the operation would be reclaimed and restored for redevelopment as commercial or residential usage or recreational activities. During operations, by putting a considerable portion of the operations underground, the site will look very much the same as it does today with minimal impact on traffic and a little noise.
Q. Will this project put acid into Miami drinking water?
The source of the drinking water for Miami-Globe is supplied from another valley located approximately 6 miles east of the Van Dyke project. In addition, the objective of the proposed pilot in-situ leach test is to demonstrate to the regulatory authorities that the fluid injected into the deposit can be recovered. It would be expected that any permits issued for the project would require recovery of all fluids injected into the deposit. The ISL recovery operations as planned occurs from 800 to 1,700 feet below surface in the Pinal Schist below the Gila Conglomerate from which no drinking water supplies for the Miami-Globe area are withdrawn. The Gila conglomerate is a calcareous unit and would act as a natural filtration system and neutralize fluid from the ISL project.
The ISL process uses a mild mixture of 99.5% water and 0.5% acid that travels along the natural pre-existing cracks and fractures in the bedrock to dissolve copper. As this solution passes through the deposit, more solution is pumped out of the deposit than injected into the deposit to create a hydraulic system to capture all the injected fluid. After production cease, the deposit is rinsed with water over a long period of time to recover any remaining injected solutions and meet permit requirements. A number of monitoring wells would be installed around the Van Dyke deposit to monitor solution movement and water quality.
As indicated above, the water used for the in-situ leach process and the source of the local drinking water are from different locations. The law requires companies to constantly monitor groundwater conditions for a number of years after production from operations have ceased.
The permits issued by the state and federal authorities requires that all injected solution must be recovered and that after production ceases, the ground water must be returned to its pre-production quality. The permits required to move the project to the next stage are issued by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) who oversee all operations to insure that the company complies with all requirements to protect drinking water, local water supplies, public health, and the environment.
Q. Can in-situ recovery contaminate the groundwater?
Copper Fox would be required by both federal and state law to protect groundwater and prove that the ISL operation can be completed in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. The ISL method has been used on two separate occasions to recover copper from the Van Dyke project over the past 40 years. The ISL method is currently being used to extract soluble minerals from other mineral deposits in the United States and around the world. The ISL operations are planned to be conducted from an underground drift located between 800 to 1,700 feet below surface and would employ best practice and best equipment standards during operations. The use of monitoring wells, and daily operations would help ensure that the leaching solution is contained within the leached area.
Q. Will this project waste water?
Based on other similar studies, ISL is reported to use significantly less water than what would be used by most types of farming, commercial or residential activities over a similar sized area. The water that would be used in the proposed ISL operation comes from a layer of surface alluvium located above the Gila Conglomerate that is not a source of drinking water or agricultural irrigation. The water-based solution used in the ISL process is extracted, processed and reused over and over again, essentially creating a closed cycle. It is expected that the operation would generate excess water that would be stored in retention ponds and treated to meet or surpass environmental guideline prior to being released to the surface.
Q. Does the Company plan to do “fracking” on the Van Dyke deposit?
The PEA contemplates fracking to enhance copper recovery. One of the objectives of the proposed five well pilot leach test is to determine if fracking is required at all.
The copper mineralization in the Van Dyke copper deposit occurs along pre-existing, naturally occurring cracks and fractures that existed prior to the formation of the copper mineralization several tens of millions of years ago. The copper minerals in the Van Dyke copper deposit are soluble which allow the recovery of the copper using very weak acidic solutions. The copper bearing solution is pumped to the surface where the copper is removed using the SX-EW process to remove the copper and the leaching solution is recycled back into the mineralized rock to continue the ISL operation. The next step of the Van Dyke project is to demonstrate to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) that by conducting the pilot leach test that the proposed ISL method can be operated in a safe manner.
At this time the PEA contemplates fracking would be restricted to a maximum distance of between 10 and 30 meters around each hole. If the results of the pilot test demonstrate that fracking is not required then we would not use fracking. It is our hope and we expect that the solutions required to dissolve the copper mineralization would flow along the natural cracks and fractures in the deposit.
Q. Isn’t the land the project is on zoned for residential use – homes and families?
A portion of the Van Dyke copper deposit is located under the Town of Miami where the pervious mining activities took place. A portion of the surface and underground activities will be conducted on land currently owned by Copper Fox. The decision to access the mineralization using a decline and install the ISL operation at a depth of from 800 to 1,700 feet below surface was based on safety, social and environmental aspects in which to extract the copper mineralization. The amount of material excavated from the underground openings required to install the injection and recovery holes is minimal. Because the ISL operation is located between 800 and 1,700 feet below surface, surface disturbance and noise levels would be minimal if any.
The approach taken to the Van Dyke project is a unique opportunity that creates a significant number of jobs, allows operations to be primarily conducted the at least 800 feet below surface while minimizing surface disturbance, noise levels and groundwater issues. On completion of operations, all facilities and infra-structure will be removed and the land on which these facilities are located, as well as the surrounding area, will be available for redevelopment. During and after termination of operations it is expected that the land surface will likely look not much different than it does now.
Q. What if the company went out of business? How is the area reclaimed?
As with all resource projects, the Van Dyke project would be required to post a performance bond, essentially an insurance policy that guarantees there will always be enough money to resolve any problem and safely close and reclaim the project. It is expected that when Van Dyke proceeds to the proposed pilot leach test; the state and federal regulatory authorities responsible for monitoring the pilot leach test would require a performance bond be established by Copper Fox. If required, the regulatory authorities who represent the public, can use money from this bond for clean-up and closure if the company was unable to meet its responsibilities and obligations.
Q. What are the next permits required by the Van Dyke project? What does that mean?
The Van Dyke project has obtained the main permits to conduct ISL operations on two separate occasions over the past 40 years. The permitting for the five well pilot leach test recommended in the PEA is prescribed by the Federal US Code (USC) laws, the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS). The environmental permitting process is managed first by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and second by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Other federal and state agencies may also become involved. The main permits required for the pilot test are:
- Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) and Underground Protection Control program for leaching operations and surface impoundments (ADEQ), and
- Underground Injection Control Permit (UIC) for injection wells (USEPA)
The application process and approval times for these permits are expected to take about one year.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ) have both scientists and engineers that review the permit application process and conduct a thorough evaluation of this project to determine if this process can be done safely.
Q. Who regulates the issuance of the Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit to the project? What does that mean?
This is one of the two main permits required to commence the pilot leach test. The UIC permit regulates the construction and operation of the Van Dyke project’s ISL operations. The Van Dyke project will need to obtain a UIC (including a public comment period) permit before the pilot leach test can be completed. The USEPA will incorporate comment from the public into the UIC permit prior to the permit being issued. This permit essentially regulates the construction and operation of the Van Dyke in-situ leach process including the injection and recovery wells.
Q. Will there be increased traffic created by the project?
The Van Dyke project is located within an area that currently has active mining operations. Traffic resulting from the project will be relatively modest and within normal traffic patterns currently seen.
Q. Is this process used anywhere else?
The in-situ recovery of metals has been used in the Miami-Globe area, in the western United States and around the world for the past few decades. It is extensively used in portions of the resource sector and is considered to be an environmentally safe method with minimal surface disturbance to recover copper.
Q. Is it dangerous to haul sulfuric acid to the site?
Sulfuric acid has been used by both the mining and agriculture industries in central Arizona for a considerable period of time. Sulfuric acid is safely transported throughout Arizona by truck or rail on a regular basis. The acid used for the Van Dyke project will be sourced locally if possible and transported in trucks designed to transport acid. Precautions will be taken to insure containment of the acid during off loading and while stored on site.