BHP Billiton announced in mid-February that preparations are under way to restart mining at its Pinto Valley operations 6 miles west of Miami, Arizona, with mining expected to resume at the end of 2012. The mine will produce copper and molybdenum concentrate, with production capacity estimated at 60,000 st/y of copper in concentrate. The project will create approximately 650 new jobs.

Pinto Valley has been on care and maintenance since early 2009. Development of the mine began in 1972, and the open-pit mine and concentrator went into production in 1974, producing copper concentrate and a molybdenum disulphide byproduct. Beginning in 1981, copper cathode was produced from leach solutions at an SX/EW plant. In February 1998, mining and sulphide ore processing were suspended due to depressed copper prices, and production was limited to elecrowon copper from the leaching operations. In late 2007, mining and sulphide ore processing were resumed but were again halted in early 2009 due to low copper prices.

BHP Billiton Base Metals president Peter Beaven said, “The $195-million investment at Pinto Valley will add valuable copper production to our Base Metals portfolio. As we look forward, our business is particularly well placed given strong growth anticipated at both Escondida in Chile and Antamina in Peru in the short to medium term.”