Highland on Monday announced the results of the preliminary economic assessment (PEA) and mineral resource estimate for White Pine North, while also introducing Kinterra Copper as joint venture (JV) partner on the project.
Kinterra will bring additional financial and technical strength with a $30-million investment for a 66% stake in White Pine North. The initial proceeds will enable early site works at the fully permitted Copperwood, with the aim of advancing the project towards construction in 2024.
“While we continue to maintain our focus on the fully-permitted Copperwood project, we have a viable path to simultaneously advance the White Pine North project, keeping our focus on near-term value creation by creating a new US copper producer. As significant capital is required to develop both projects, the JV arrangement allows us to move forward without having to issue any shares, and unlocks tremendous value for our shareholders,” said Highland president and CEO Denis Miville-Deschênes.
Meanwhile, the PEA for White Pine North proposes a standalone project, 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 study estimates that initial capital expenditure of $615-million will be required for a mine with a 21.8-year life, including 21 months of ramp-up. On average, White Pine will produce 93.5-million pounds a year of copper and 1.2-million ounces a year of silver at a C1 cash cost of $1.85/lb, net of byproduct.
White Pine North has an indicated mineral resource containing 3.5-billion pounds of copper (150.7-million tonnes at 1.05% copper) and 65.5-million ounces of silver (13.5 g/t)
It has an inferred mineral resource containing 2.2-billion pounds of copper (96.4-million tonnes at 1.03% copper) and 27.8-million ounces of silver (9.0 g/t)
From the resource, mineralised material included in the mine plan includes 115.8-million tonnes at 0.97% copper and 11.09 g/t silver, containing 2.47-billion pounds of copper and 41.3-million ounces of silver.
The PEA yields an aftertax net present value, using an 8% discount, of $821-million and an aftertax internal rate of return of 20.8%.
“We look forward to continuing our work with the state of Michigan, making Copperwood and White Pine North key economic contributors in the region, becoming an important part of domestic copper supply and aiding in the on-going goals of electrification in Michigan and the US,” he said.