Hudbay Minerals Inc. is preparing a revised mining plan for its proposed Rosemont open-pit copper project in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson; a corporate executive recently disclosed to a mining news website.
“We actually hope within the next six to eight months to produce more disclosure on Rosemont so we can show what Hudbay’s plan is, because it’s changed a little from the Augusta plan on how we would operate, build, and mine it,” Cashel Meagher, Hudbay’s chief operating officer, told Mining.com in a Sept. 18 profile.
“We are working on a more robust capital construction scenario with a more thoughtful mining plan,” Meagher is quoted as saying.
Meagher’s statement indicates that Hudbay is delaying the release of a definitive feasibility study for Rosemont. The report, which is required by regulators and used by lenders and investors to evaluate a mining project, was expected to be released by mid-2016, according to a January news release.
In January, Hudbay said it would spend $30 million completing the study that would provide the foundation for its decision on future investments in the $1.5 billion Rosemont project. A month later, Hudbay said the $30 million would be spent over the entire year, rather than the first six months of 2016.
Meagher’s recent statement appears to push back the release of the definitive report until next year.
The Mining.com interview was published six weeks after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles district office recommended that Hudbay’s application for a crucial Clean Water Act permit needed to build the mine be denied. A final permitting decision is not expected until later this year.
The most recent Rosemont feasibility study was released in a 2012 August 28 regulatory filing (large file warning) prepared by Augusta Resource Corp. Hudbay purchased Augusta in July 2014 to acquire the Rosemont property.
Meagher’s statement that Hudbay is now preparing revisions to its mining plan could have significant regulatory implications. The U.S. Forest Service in December 2013 issued a draft Record of Decision approving construction of the mine based on Augusta’s mine plan of operations.
Significant changes to the Rosemont mining plan could trigger additional environmental studies that could impact permits already issued such as the air pollution and aquifer protection permits issued by the state, and the pending federal Clean Water Act permit.
Hudbay announced earlier this year that it had delayed Rosemont construction because of low copper prices. Copper prices are not expected to rebound from near $2 pound for at least another year as new mines open in the face of slowing Chinese demand, according to forecasts. Hudbay has stated in the past it would need copper to reach $3.50 a pound before it would open a new mine.