The Empire Mine
Phoenix Copper Limited is 80% owner of a past-producing copper, zinc, gold, silver mine - Empire Mine near Mackay in Idaho, USA. The underground mine was in operation between 1901 to 1942 and was shipping ore at grades of 6% to 8% copper and 6.6 grammes/tonne gold. In 2015, Phoenix secured an option to acquire an 80% interest in Konnex Resources Inc, which owned the Empire Mine, Konnex’s only asset. Phoenix completed its AIM IPO in mid-2017, exercised the option and acquired the 80% interest in Konnex.
- Low-cost Empire oxide open pit mine at Feasibility Study stage to produce copper cathode, gold, silver and zinc. 445 holes drilled
- October 2020 updated resource of 22.9 million tonnes of Measured and Indicated and 10.6 million tonnes of Inferred, containing 129,641 tonnes of copper, 58,440 tonnes of zinc, 10,133,772 ounces of silver and 355,523 ounces of gold
- Successful recovery of gold achieved from the Empire open pit ore using environmentally friendly ammonium thiosulphate
- Significant exploration upside: 1% to 2% of potential ore system explored to date (Nigel Maund, consulting geologist, April 2019)
- Management with track record of taking TSX and AIM listed companies from IPO to Mine production
Between 1901 and 1942 Empire produced direct smelting ore at grades of between 6% and 8% copper and up to 6.6 grammes per tonne gold. Since the mid-1960 drilling on the 3.31 square kilometre property, consisting of patented and unpatented claims, had identified a near surface open pit mineable oxide deposit sitting above the old underground mine workings. Other than this, no modern exploration had been carried out on the property or on the surrounding mineralised area.
In 2017 additional drilling was completed on the oxides with the view to generating resources and reserves on which to develop a low capital and operating cost open pit heap leach copper operation to self-finance the exploration of the surrounding area. In November 2017, an NI 43-101 compliant open pit copper oxide was completed.
Then in April 2018 additional contiguous claims were staked to encompass three other old mine workings and the property was expanded to 7.18 square kilometres. Following mining, metallurgical, infrastructure and environmental studies a Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") on an open pit heap leach solvent extraction and electro-winning ("SX-EW") copper project was also completed in April 2018. In June 2018 five drill rigs embarked on a drilling programme to increase the oxide resources. An additional 8,600 metres of drilling was completed by year end bringing the total drilled in an 18-month period to 11,650 metres in 126 holes. Additional metallurgical heap leach column tests were carried out as well as geotechnical, hydrological and environmental studies.
In February 2019 the property was expanded further to encompass two areas. The area around the Empire Mine was increased to 13.34 square kilometres and includes more than 30 historical prospects, shafts and adits with an overall length of contiguous mineralisation of some 5.4 kilometres. Also staked is the Navarre Creek property, some 6.5 kilometres west of Empire, over a 9.8 square kilometre area geologically similar to the Carlin Trend gold belt in Nevada suggesting excellent potential for precious metal discoveries.
In October 2020 an updated resource model, resulted in “Measured and Indicated” resource of 22.9 million tonnes ore, with 10.6 million tonnes of “Inferred” resource, giving an overall metal content of 129,641 tonnes of copper, 58,440 tonnes of zinc, 10,133,772 ounces of silver and 355,523 ounces of gold. During the 2020 evaluation programme, gold was successfully recovered in the laboratory from the Empire Mine ore using the environmentally friendly reagent ammonium thiosulphate.
The total 23.14 square kilometre property could, according to Phoenix’s consulting geologist, host a world class porphyry copper/gold deposit. At the same time early production can be achieved from the “Measured and Indicated” oxide resources already identified.
The tungsten values were particularly interesting as they positively reinforced the Company's consulting geologist's predictions of the Empire system hosting significant values of tungsten at depth. Following a site visit In April 2019, Nigel Maund, the Company’s consultant geologist, completed an update of his 2015 geological report of the Empire Mine. Amongst his conclusions, he confirmed that the Empire Mine comprises a world class polymetallic ore system containing tungsten and molybdenum, as well as copper, gold, silver, zinc and lead. He also concluded that the mine is sited along a major north south structure, with some five kilometres of geologic strike (of which the footprint of the heap leach open pit copper project is one-kilometre). Furthermore, he reported that exploration has to date focused on the near surface oxides in the proposed open pit and concluded that only 1% to 2% of the ore system has been tested to date.
With a management team that has successfully constructed, commissioned and operated mines, a low risk mining-friendly jurisdiction and excellent infrastructure, Phoenix is looking to fulfil its ambitions to become a mid-tier base metal and precious metal producer.
With 23.14 square kilometres of highly prospective claims it will apply modern exploration techniques to find the world class porphyry deposit at the same time.