Red Chris Project still faces a big challenge
Last updated 2/28/2010 at Noon
Though federal and provincial regulators prevailed in a legal challenge to the green light they gave Imperial Metals Corp. for the Red Chris copper-gold porphyry project in northwestern British Columbia, the proposed mine has another major hurdle to clear.
Development of Red Chris into a mine is contingent upon construction of a power line to service northwest British Columbia. A 2005 feasibility study for the project was based on the assumption that a power supply would be available at Tatogga near Iskut, about 23 kilometers, or 14 miles, from the mine site. At present, the power supply grid extends only to Meziadin Junction, a distance of 257 kilometers from the mine site.
In September, the Canadian government approved C$130 million in funding for construction of a new 287-kilovolt line which will extend 335 kilometers, or 208 miles, from Terrace to Meziadin Junction and north to Bob Quinn Lake, providing access to British Columbia's electricity grid for customers.
The Government of British Columbia also committed C$250 million to the project, including C$10 million to support its environmental assessment and the First Nations consultation process.
The power line's proponents say its construction will set the stage for development of mine projects such as Red Chris. The Red Chris deposit contains about 276 million metric tons of minable reserves at 0.349 percent copper and 0.266 g/t gold (based on the 2005 Red Chris feasibility study). The project's anticipated mine life is 25 years with known reserves and a production rate of 30,000 metric tons per day. Construction of a mine is expected to take two years and generate 600 jobs. During the mine's life, operations would require 250-300 direct jobs with an additional 750 indirect jobs.
Encouraging exploration results
In January, Imperial reported encouraging results from a 2009 deep drill program at Red Chris, including hole RC09-351, which was collared 200 meters west of hole 07-335 and now represents the most western deep drilling on the East zone at Red Chris. The mineralized intercept extends from 237.5 meters to 732.5 meters grading 0.46 percent copper and 0.59 g/t gold over 495.0 meters. This drill hole pierces the planned open pit at 287.5 meters depth in the area of the "saddle" between the East zone and Main zone. Mineralization in the drill hole picks up right below the saddle, and the 257.5 meters immediately below it averages 0.54 percent copper and 0.69 g/t gold.
Hole RC09-352 was collared roughly midway between RC09-351 and hole 07-335. Similar to RC09-351, hole RC09-352 mineralization picked up just below the point it passed through the pit design at 300.0 meters depth for 552.9 meters grading 0.62 percent copper and 0.73 g/t gold.
The 2009 Red Chris exploration program included completion of an airborne magnetic survey, 13 line Titan 24 survey, bobcat drilling, geologic mapping and completion of nine deep drill holes totaling 11,528 meters. Drill holes RC09-353 and RC09-354 were in progress at the end of the 2009 season. Drilling was to resume on holes RC09-353, RC09-354 and RC09-355 in the last week of January.
Imperial said its 2010 exploration program at Red Chris will include an accelerated drilling program with a number of supportive surveys.