Augusta Resource: Rosemont mine project may get “bigger”

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Updated on at 1:21 p.m., Feb. 26 to include information from the Augusta Resource Corp. “Directors Circular” concerning HudBay Mineral Resources’ takeover offer.

Contrary to previous statements, Augusta Resource Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer Gil Clausen on Monday said the company plans to expand its Rosemont copper project beyond the proposed mile-wide, half-mile deep pit that is the basis for the Coronado National Forest’s (CNF) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (ROD).

The Coronado National Forest’s FEIS, which was released in December, did not evaluate the environmental impacts of a much larger mining operation, extending over a much longer time, that Clausen now confirms is actually a key part of Augusta’s plans for the site.

Augusta provided further details of Rosemont’s expansion and exploration potential in a “Directors Circular” filed late Monday with Canadian regulators.

The company stated that the existing mine plan of operations that was subject to the FEIS and Draft ROD “is premised on only proven and probable reserves of approximately 5.9 billion pounds of copper.” The Augusta circular states that an additional 3 billion pounds of copper may exist at the Rosemont site and if developed “could significantly increase annual production and mine life.”

The circular also states that there is additional exploration possibilities within the 20,100 acres of private lands, patented and unpatented mining claims that make up the Rosemont project area.

In the past, Clausen had repeatedly dismissed the possibility that Augusta would expand the Rosemont copper project to other mining claims it holds nearby.

When asked in early 2012 about developing Augusta’s three major mining claims close to the Rosemont pit, he told the Arizona Daily Star “we don’t intend to do any mining development there”.

But Clausen suggested a far different outlook during a Monday conference call  to discuss the Augusta board of directors’ decision to reject a $540 million unsolicited takeover offer from Toronto-based HudBay Mineral Resources.

During his presentation, Clausen made clear that one of the key reasons the HudBay offer should be rejected was because the Rosemont project could grow even bigger based on further exploration and possible expansion.

Augusta similarly acknowledged  in a Monday press release that “Rosemont offers expansion and exploration potential.”

Clausen’s discussion with  analysts and investors was accompanied by a presentation that included a section on “Exploration Upside”. The report stated that Augusta has “identified multiple IP (Induced Polarization) anomalies in close proximity to the Rosemont pit which are worthy of exploration.”  (Induced polarization is a geophysical imaging technique used to identify subsurface ore bodies.)

“This could substantially extend our mine life and our throughput,” he said.

Although Clausen didn’t identify the location of the “anomalies”, it is well known that Augusta has three significant mining claims near the Rosemont deposit that contain copper reserves: Broad Top Butte, Copper World and Peach Elgin.

If these claims were developed, Augusta’s copper project would sprawl over the top of the Santa Ritas and spill over on to the western slope, where the mining operations would be visible from Green Valley and other towns, something that has generated significant concern and controversy in the past.

During Monday’s call, Clausen also made clear that HudBay’s offer was a “grossly opportunistic bid” designed to “deprive our shareholders” of reaping the rewards of years of work that is about to come to fruition with permitting drawing to a conclusion.

“We will not let HudBay steal that asset with this low-ball bid,” Clausen said.

At least 33 percent of Augusta’s shareholders have stated they will not accept HudBay’s bid, Clausen said, making it extremely difficult for the takeover offer to move forward.

HudBay already controls nearly 16 percent of Augusta’s 144 million shares of stock outstanding. HudBay began purchasing Augusta shares in 2010 and has spent $70 million to acquire 23 million shares at an average price of $3.04 a share. HudBay’s all stock offer for Augusta is worth approximately $2.80 a share.

With the door all but slammed shut on HudBay, Clausen told investors and analysts that Augusta has signed confidentiality agreements with “several” parties that might be interested in acquiring Augusta.

“We have been approached and our financial advisors have initiated contact with a number of third parties,” Clausen said.

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One Response to Augusta Resource: Rosemont mine project may get “bigger”

  1. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    AUGUSTA’S SPECULATES THAT THE ROSEMONT COPPER PROPERTY HAS THE POTENTIAL TO EXPAND OVER TIME BASED ON WHAT INFORMATION ? ARE THEY HOLDING BACK DRILLING RESULTS WHICH WOULD SUPPORT THIS ? ANOMALIES ALONE , DEFINED BY WHATEVER MEANS , ARE NOT PROOF OF COPPER MINERALIZATION . AUGUSTA IS SIMPLY TRYING TO PUT MORE SPIN ON THEIR PROMOTING AND SPECULATING . ARE ALL HOLES DRILLED ON THE ROSEMONT PROPERTY FULLY ACCOUNTED FOR IN THE CURRENT PERMITTING ACTIVITIES ? DO THE PERMITS , AS APPLIED FOR , COVER EXPANDED MINING INCLUDING A MUCH BIGGER PIT AND/ OR PERHAPS SMALLER SATELLITE PITS . AUGUSTA’S ATTEMPTS TO TRASH HUDBAY BRINGS INTO QUESTION HUDBAY’S CREDIBILITY AT A TIME WHEN NO OTHER SUITOR HAS APPEARED . THERE IS AND NEVER HAS BEEN A MINING COMPANY WITH A ” CLEAN RECORD ” . SOME ARE JUST DIRTIER THAN OTHERS . ROSEMONT , AT PRESENT , REPRESENTS COPPER IN THE GROUND . SUCCESS CAN BE ONLY BE MEASURED ACCORDING TO THE COPPER RECOVERY SHOULD MINING EVER OCCUR . AUGUSTA’S FAILURE TO CARRY OUT SIGNIFICANT BULK TESTING ON THE ROSEMONT PROPERTY COULD LEAD TO ITS DOWNFALL . SO FAR , ALL THE VALUE IN THE ROSEMONT PROPERTY APPEARS ON PAPER ONLY AND NOT IN PRODUCT MINED .