The Twin Metals copper-nickel mine proposal is economically viable, according to the project’s draft Pre-Feasibility Study, which was released this week.
The study says that over 30 years, the mine would produce 5.8 billion pounds of copper and 1.2 billion pounds of nickel, as well as millions of ounces of platinum, palladium, gold, and silver. The mine would have strong operating margins, with profits of $36.54 per ton and an average production rate of 50,000 tons of ore per day. It could create 850 full-time jobs, as well as 12 million labor hours during the construction phase.
“The PFS Technical Report validates the TMM Project to be one of the most compelling greenfield copper-nickel development projects in the world,” stated Kelly Osborne, President and CEO of Duluth Metals, the mine’s majority owner, which produced the study.
The project would include an underground mine, located near the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake, about nine miles southeast of Ely along Highway 1. It would be about three miles from the South Kawishiwi River entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Ore would be processed underground and half of the tailings—he waste left over after processing—would be stored in the mine, while the other half would be transported across the Laurentian Divide to tailings basins planned near Babbitt, in the Lake Superior watershed.
“There’s nothing in that report that changes our mind about the fact that a copper-nickel-sulfide mine shouldn’t be located next to the Boundary Waters,” said Aaron Klemz, spokesman for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, told the Associated Press. “It just spreads risk into two precious watersheds instead of just one.”
The mining company’s stock fell sharply after the study was released, hitting $.32 per share, down 23 percent, and down from a 52-week high of $1.46 per share. It would require an initial investment of $2.77 billion for construction. The project’s major financier, Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta PLC, recently announced it is backing out of the project.