PERSPECTIVE: Copper to be hottest metal in 2011

Analysts are predicting the copper will be the hottest metal in 2011. And why not? The metal hit an all-time high of over US$4.27 per pound the week of Dec. 30, 2010. The rising copper price correlates positively with a healthy global...

Analysts are predicting the copper will be the hottest metal in 2011. And why not? The metal hit an all-time high of over US$4.27 per pound the week of Dec. 30, 2010. The rising copper price correlates positively with a healthy global manufacturing industry. The copper price has jumped nearly 30% this year, and a potential shortage will keep the price rising for many more months.

A quick look at The Northern Miner website reveals a list of Canadian copper producers - Agnico-Eagle, Breakwater, Capstone, HudBay, Imperial Metals, Liberty Mines, Northgate, Quadra FNX, Sable Resources, Taseko and Teck Resources. All are proudly Canadian, but we must add the mines of Vale SA and Xstrata plc if we are to cover all the copper operations in this country. The future looks bright for them.

There are also 10 copper development projects underway in Canada. Here is a quick rundown:

Kenville mine near Nelson, BC. Owned by Anglo Swiss Resources of Vancouver. ( This is a small, low budget project that is targeting a former producer. Gold as its primary output; copper will be a byproduct. The company has a custom mill and is exploring its underground workings in the hope of restarting production on the 257 level.

Schaft Creek near Telegraph Creek, BC. Owned by Copper Fox Metals of Calgary. ( The company has outlined a measured and indicated resource of 1.4 billion tonnes grading 0.25% Cu, 0.019% Mo, 0.18 g/t Au and 1.55 g/t Ag. Copper Fox is working on the environmental applications and completion of the feasibility study is imminent.

Copper Mountain near Princeton, BC. Owned by Copper Mountain Mining of Vancouver. ( Development of a super pit and new milling facility is planned. The feasibility study completed in 2009 outlines milling plan to treats 35,000 tonnes of ore daily.

Bracebridge-McLeod near Matagami, QC. Donner Metals of Vancouver (35%) and Xstrata plc (65%). Production is expected in late 2012 to replace ore from Xstrata's Perseverance mine that will be exhausted in 2013. L'Associaton de l'exploration minière du Québec awarded the Bracebridge-McLeod project its 2010 Development of the Year Award.

NICO 160 km northwest of Yellowknife, NT. Owned by Fortune Minerals of London, ON. ( The greatest potential of the NICO deposit is as a bismuth producer, but it will also recover copper, gold and cobalt. Fortune purchased and moved the mineral processing facilities it will use from the Hemlo gold camp in northern Ontario.

Red Chris near Dease Lake, BC. Owned by Imperial Metals  of Vancouver. ( The deposit has reserves of over 300 million tonnes grading 0.36% Cu and 0.274 g/t Au. Almost 2.1 billion lbs of copper and 1.3 million oz of gold could be recovered. Imperial is working toward developing an open pit mine and 30,000 t/d concentrator.

New Afton near Kamloops, BC. Owned by New Gold of Vancouver. ( Production is to begin in 2012 at a rate of 75 million lb/year copper and 85,000 lb/year gold.

Mt Milligan near Smithers, BC. Owned by Terrane Metals of Vancouver (, a subsidiary of Thompson Creek Metals. Construction began in the middle of 2010 for a 2013 startup. The deposit contains 2.1 billion lb of copper and 6.0 million oz of gold.

Carmacks and Casino in southwest Yukon. Owned by Western Copper Corp. of Vancouver. ( The Carmacks project is in the permitting stage for a heap leach, solvent extraction-electrowinning operation, but the Yukon water board denied a licence in June 2010. No doubt Western Copper will re-apply. The pre-feasibility study for the Casino project is complete; it proposes a conventional flotation mill and a gold heap leach circuit.

Prosperity southwest of Williams Lake, BC. Owned by Taseko Mines of Vancouver. ( Work at Prosperity came to a halt in November when Environment Canada denied its approval for the project. Until the appropriate permit can be obtained, 5.3 billion lb of copper and 13.3 million oz of gold will remain in the ground.

In addition to these near-term producers, there are approximately 35 advanced copper exploration projects, over 1,000 exploration projects, and 15 closed or suspended copper mines in Canada.

This country has a great potential to increase its copper production if supply worries keep the price strong.


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