ISCR is a non-invasive mining method that uses solutions to dissolve and extract copper from deep in the ground without environmental disturbance. A weak acidic solution (99.5% water and 0.5% sulfuric acid) similar in pH to household vinegar (between 2-3 pH) is released into a soluble copper oxide deposit 400’ to 1,200’ below ground. The solution dissolves the copper oxide and the resulting copper-rich solution is pumped to the surface where it is manufactured into 99.9% pure copper sheets. ISCR is an environmentally sound process that has been proven successful around the globe for decades in other types of mining activities. The Florence Copper PTF successfully proved that ISCR works in Florence.
This unique mining method is possible because the copper deposit in Florence is unique. ISCR requires specific hydrogeological conditions that happen to be in Florence. Unlike orebodies that are made up of solid rock, this deposit is naturally porous and shattered, allowing the extraction solution to easily flow through it, without the use of pressure.
There will be no impact on local water quality or quantity. ISCR uses significantly less water than what would be used by most types of farming or residential housing on the same area of land. The water used in the process comes from a layer of water deep underground and reused in the ISCR process over and over again for water efficiency. The in-situ process uses a mixture of 99.5% water and 0.5% acid that slowly dissolves copper in the bedrock. At the same time the water-based solution is being introduced into the copper ore body, it is also being withdrawn through the ore body and transported up to the surface. More solution is pumped out than is pumped in creating a cone of depression in the aquifer, which prevents migration of any mining solution. After the copper extraction is complete, the ore body is flushed with water so none of the solution is left behind. Multiple monitoring wells placed just outside of the project area ensure that the water quality outside the ore body is not impacted.
Florence Copper creates up to 99.999% pure copper cathode (copper sheets) using a technology called Solvent Extraction/Electrowinning (SX/EW). A chemical process first removes the dissolved copper from the solution and then electricity is used to plate the copper into cathodes.
The economic and social benefits from the project are significant. A study authored by ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business concluded that Florence Copper would create on average 796 jobs in Arizona and generate $3.4 billion in economic activity for the state over its estimated 30-year lifetime. State government will collect approximately $468 million in taxes and royalties. The Town of Florence and Pinal County collectively will receive approximately $102 million in local and county tax revenues. Residents can expect about 480 of the total jobs to be located in Pinal County with 240 workers employed at the site in Florence during commercial operations. Currently, there are approximately 40 employees on-site operating the PTF.
Florence Copper will hire for all skill levels with most jobs being considered head of household wages. This includes but is not limited to: Electricians, Administrators, Accountants, Welders, Laborers, Operators, Shift Supervisors, Engineers, Technicians, and Mechanics. Some positions require specific education and experience, but others do not. The company anticipates creating a training program for SX/EW Operators who may not have prior experience. Florence Copper is committed to its Local Hire policy, which means that applicants living closest to the project will be given preference. Interested workers should apply online once a job has posted to be considered – www.florencecopper.com/careers
There will be no negative impact to air quality. Florence Copper has a minor source air quality permit issued by Pinal County Air Quality Control. There are over a dozen SX/EW facilities in Arizona and none of them – including Florence Copper’s – have had any violations of air quality standards. Florence Copper crew members have decades of experience operating SX/EW facilities, and the company takes additional steps to ensure compliance with air quality standards within the plant beyond what is required by law.
Sulfuric acid is commonly used in the agricultural and mining industries and routinely transported throughout the state. Specially designed trucks licensed by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) transport the acid to Florence Copper’s property. Florence Copper has processes in place that ensure additional protections:1) the off-loading area on site has a purpose-built cement pad covered with an acid-resistant coating; 2) steel storage tanks are equipped with secondary containment features; and 3) crew members undergo extensive HAZMAT training. ADOT’s Hazardous Materials Response Team and ADEQ’s Emergency Response Team respond to off-site incidents. Acid haulers currently work all over the State of Arizona, and they are independently insured and properly trained for any accidents, if they were to occur.
Florence Copper has a regulatory and financial obligation to ensure and maintain compliance with environmental standards and to remediate any permit exceedances should an accident or mishap result in damage or in the event that the company ceased to exist. Currently, Florence Copper has four separate financial assurance bonds totaling $4.5 million, which is expected to increase to over $40 million during commercial operations. ADEQ and EPA require mineral extraction operations like Florence Copper to demonstrate financial capability as a pre-condition to operating.
Florence Copper will recover approximately 85 million lbs. of copper annually for the life of the project, which is anticipated to be twenty plus years. Once the copper has been fully recovered, the land will look much as it does today and can be redeveloped for another use such as parkland, residential housing, or manufacturing activities.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a draft Underground Injection Control Permit for the Florence Copper Project. This is the final permit required to advance the project to commercial operations.
The draft permit will be the subject of a 45-day public comment period that begins August 11 and concludes September 29, 2022, including a virtual public hearing hosted by the EPA on September 15, 2022.