Los Andes Copper Ltd (CVE:LA) is looking to develop its Vizcachitas copper-molybdenum porphyry project into Chile's next copper mine amid a predicted global deficit of the red metal in coming years, not least as the world shifts to a greener economy.
Its Tier 1, Vizcachitas deposit sits in a land package of 308 square kilometres (sq km) and already hosts a measured and indicated resource of 11.2 billion pounds of copper, 400 million pounds of molybdenum and 43.3 million ounces of silver, and there is significant potential to expand this.
Proactive recently caught up with the group's executive chairman Fernando Porcile, who has over 50 years' of mining industry experience, mostly in copper, to get the low-down on the company's Vizcachitas asset and more on the roadmap to its production.
Proactive: When do you expect to get drilling again at the Vizcachitas project and what will the program entail?
Fernando Porcile (FP): We are currently working our way through the Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) that is required to carry out the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) drilling. This environmental permit application should be submitted for voting by the Regional Environmental Committee during March/April 2021. We should have the approval within April and start drilling shortly after that date.
The drilling has three main aims:
- Drill the targets that were identified from the geophysical survey and geological mapping that we carried out in 2020. We identified some attractive targets from the current drilling extending north for 1 km. There is significant exploration upside at Vizcachitas with the potential to increase the resource base beyond what was modelled in the PEA.
- Drill extensions to the high-grade mineralisation that we intersected during the 2017 drilling campaign. We were unable to drill these areas at the time, due to restrictions imposed by the drilling permit. These targets are in the northern part of the PEA open pit. Any mineralisation that we identify can be included in the PFS open pit.
- Infill drilling to convert Inferred Resources to Indicated or Measured Resources. This is to ensure that this mineralised material is included in the PFS mine plan.
Proactive: Why copper? Projects are few and far between and costly to develop. What makes you believe it's time for the next copper mine in Chile?
PF: The global deficit in copper production over the coming years cannot be covered by expanding/extending existing operations, thus requiring several large new operations to cover such gap. As the COVID-19 vaccinations roll-out we should see a pickup in trade and more travel. The Biden Democratic American government's $1.9 trillion economic aid package and other financial stimulus package should increase economic activity and therefore commodity consumption.
In the longer-term, green investment: electric cars, and their electric-charging stations and wind farms is commodity-intensive and will help maintain the commodity prices high.
There aren’t many copper projects that are ready to be developed and are in attractive jurisdictions. Vizcachitas is one of those projects.
Chile remains one of the most attractive countries to develop mining projects. Chile has a strong democratic system and has implemented a stable tax regime. For that reason, there are many international companies operating mines successfully in Chile.
Proactive: What do you expect to be the likely newsflow from the company over the next 12 months or so?
PF: It is going to be an exciting year for us. From April onwards, once we have received the drilling permit, we will start publishing the drilling results.
The engineering work for the pre-feasibility study is progressing well and we are releasing results of this as we advance the work programme. Once the drilling has finished, we will be releasing an updated resource estimate and the pre-feasibility study at the end of the year.
Proactive: Please can you outline the steps that need to occur over the few years and how do you see the project advancing?
PF: The critical path for any economically attractive project is the preparation of the base lines studies and the approval of the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) that is required for the construction and operation of the mine. For that reason, we are concentrating on this aspect of the project. We have already started the baseline studies for the mine project.
The preparation of the EIA approval package will take a further 15-24 months and the approval process, while variable, once filed can last 12-24 months. Once the project has environmental approval and the construction permits are processed, construction can begin.
Proactive: Can you briefly outline the history of the company?
PF: The project has a relatively long and interesting history. Too long to explain here. But to briefly summarise its history, the central claim, San Jose, was claimed in the 1970s.
In the 1980’s the ownership of the central claim was divided into two, and the project was only consolidated under one company in 2010. For this reason, the project was never developed in the 1990-2000’s. Under current management, the company has updated the geological model and drilled defined the high-grade core of the project.
The company published a robust PEA study in 2019 demonstrating the scale and value of the project. In 2020, the company restructured the management team. This is when I was brought in to head up the mine development team. With the incorporation of this highly experienced management team, the project development is advancing rapidly. We are incorporating changes to position itself on the forefront of global environmental trends for mining.
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