Looking upward toward shaft infrastructure in place at Nevada Copper's Pumpkin Hollow project.
Looking upward toward shaft infrastructure in place at Nevada Copper’s Pumpkin Hollow project.

Following passage on December 19, 2014, of a federal land bill conveying 10,400 acres of federal land to the city of Yerington, Nevada—land that will subsequently be conveyed to Nevada Copper—the company outlined updated plans to bring its Pumpkin Hollow copper project into production. Under the new land-ownership regime, the entire Pumpkin Hollow project area is being consolidated into a single, privately held land package owned by Nevada Copper, with all required permits under state jurisdiction.

Nevada Copper now expects to receive all key permits for open-pit operation at Pumpkin Hollow by June. All permits for underground operation are already in place.

With land-ownership issues settled, Nevada Copper has launched an integrated feasibility study to consider Pumpkin Hollow development as a single, large-scale, combined open-pit/underground project, with a single concentrator processing 70,000 short tons per day (st/d). The company had previously planned staged development of the project, with a high-grade underground mine and mill to be developed ahead of open-pit mining. Under the combined development plan, mill feed would include an average of 63,500 st/d of open-pit ore blended with 6,500 st/d of high-grade underground ore.

Nevada Copper anticipates that enhanced mill feed grades for the large mill, coupled with elimination of the capital required for the smaller 6,500-st/d mill proposed for the underground project, will provide better capital efficiency and overall better project economics.

Completion of the integrated feasibility study is targeted for April.

Nevada Copper President and CEO Giulio Bonifacio said, “We will continue to preserve our development options with respect to staged development versus a single, large, integrated project until such time as we have the results of the integrated feasibility study and can determine our optimal strategy going forward. In either case, first production is targeted for late 2016, early 2017, subject to completion of financing arrangements.”

Meanwhile, Nevada Copper is nearing completion of the circular, 24-ft-diameter, concrete-lined, production-sized shaft it is sinking to access Pumpkin Hollow’s underground deposits. As of February 10, the shaft was at the 1,806-ft level, more than 95% of the way toward the main 1,900-ft haulage level. After reaching the 1,900-ft level, about 700 ft of lateral development will begin on this level to establish setup locations for delineation and development drilling and to provide future access to the underground east ore zones. While this lateral development continues, the shaft will be deepened to its final depth of 2,160 ft.

An underground drill program totaling 26,000 ft is scheduled to start in May 2015. The program will focus on enlarging high-grade zones within the current reserve, especially in areas planned for mining in the early years, and will provide additional data for mine design while expanding open mineralized areas.

A Pumpkin Hollow open-pit drill program totaling 74,000 ft was already in progress as of mid-February.