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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVE: Mining in Idaho

Since I am here anyway visiting my parents in the Gem State, I thought I would take fill our readers in concer...



Since I am here anyway visiting my parents in the Gem State, I thought I would take fill our readers in concerning two advanced projects belonging to Canadian companies. The Atlanta gold development project near Boise is owned by Toronto-based Atlanta Gold. The Idaho Cobalt advanced exploration project near Salmon is under investigation by Formation Metals Inc. (formerly Formation Capital) of Vancouver.

 

Idaho is a producer of molybdenum, silver, phosphate, byproduct lead, zinc and copper as well as sand and gravel. Mineral production from 2003 through 2007 was worth US$3.2 billion. Over US$1.0 billion was paid in wages and nearly $58 million collected in taxes during the same period. The mining industry in Idaho – if you will excuse the pun – is small potatoes compared to Canada’s, but vital to the roughly 4,000 people employed in it.

 

I must not forget Thompson Creek Mining of Vancouver which operates the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine near Challis as well as its Endako mine in British Columbia. The Canadian owner has recently announced a 30% increase in reserves and a new 16-year mine plan that extends the life of the Thompson Creek mine by six additional years.

 

Atlanta Gold has been investigating its claims in the state’s central desert for many years. In this ecologically sensitive area, the company has made extraordinary efforts to limit the footprint of the project. In 2008 it worked on a small-scale pit and an 720-t/d pilot plant that relied on a gravity circuit and a cyanide-free flotation circuit. Treatment and recycling of process water will be included when the pilot mill is built in 2010. Most of the ore will be recovered from underground development. Plus the deposit contains recoverable amounts of silver.

 

Work is moving forward, perhaps more slowly than Atlanta Gold would like, but the 43-101 report produced in May 2009 put total measured and indicated resources at 2.7 million tonnes grading 4.8 g/t Au for the open pit portion and 11.2 g/t Au for the underground portion of the deposit.

 

Formation Metals completed a bankable feasibility study on its Idaho cobalt project in 2007. Engineering and permitting has been completed, and the company is now pursuing finance options. The property contains approximately 2.4 million tonnes of proven and probable reserves with average grades of 0.449% Co, 0.596% Cu and 0.4 g/t Au. An underground operation is proposed.

 

The Idaho deposit has the potential to mine and refine up to 1,360 tonnes of high purity cobalt annually, which would make it the world’s second largest producer. According to Formation it would be the only integrated cobalt facility in the United States. The company is planning a hydrometallurgical plant to recover cobalt, a solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) facility for copper, and a gold and silver refinery. All tailings would be returned to mined-out areas as paste fill, and no tailings storage facility is needed in the mountainous region. Average production cost for a pound of cobalt is estimated at US$7.73/lb.

 

As an aside, and of no interest to anyone but me, former Idaho governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Cecil D. Andrus is an independent director of Formation. I worked on his gubernatorial campaign and helped get him elected the first time just two days before I was old enough to vote.