Hermosa Aerial LR-min

South32’s Hermosa project, currently the only advanced U.S. mining project capable of producing two federally designated critical minerals (zinc and manganese), received board approval of $2.16 billion in funding to develop the zinc-lead-silver deposit. The approval represents the largest private investment in southern Arizona’s history, and the largest investment in the Santa Cruz County economy to date by a factor of nearly nine times.

The Hermosa project was the first critical minerals mining project added to the U.S. FAST-41 permitting process, and it has the potential to be one of the world’s largest zinc producers. It could put Arizona in the driver’s seat of the clean energy race, supplying a critical mineral needed for the expansion of renewable energy and associated infrastructure.

“Today’s investment decision represents a major milestone for our business and aligns with our strategy to reshape our portfolio toward commodities critical to a low-carbon future,” said South32 CEO Graham Kerr. “Development of the zinc deposit is the first phase of a regional scale opportunity at Hermosa, with ongoing activities to unlock additional value from the manganese deposit.”

“The Hermosa project will strengthen the domestic supply of critical minerals needed for clean energy technologies and national defense, reducing America’s reliance on foreign countries and transforming the local economy,” said Pat Risner, president of the Hermosa project. “It’s a win for Arizona and the nation.”

The operation has been designed to minimize its environmental impact with a surface footprint of a little more than 600 acres. It is projected to use approximately 75% less water than other mines in the region. Additionally, the Hermosa project is embracing sustainability and advanced technology in its next-generation, underground mine design, using automation and technology to drive efficiencies, and lower operational greenhouse gas emissions.

South32’s investment will fund construction of a host of key infrastructure projects needed to implement that design, including water management systems, power, site facilities, underground shaft sinking, initial underground development and other work required to begin operations around the zinc deposit.

Once completed, this infrastructure would support future potential development of other deposits at the site, including the battery-grade manganese deposit.

The feasibility study for Hermosa’s zinc-lead-silver deposit showed an expected initial operating life for the mine of approximately 28 years with potential for further exploration upside.