The CuMo Project, like other potential mining operations, develops through the successful completion of several stages. Every mining project begins with basic exploration and ends with mine closure and reclamation.
Each stage is dependent upon the success or failure of the previous stage with outcomes ranging from a project moving forward, it being placed on hold, or the outright cancellation of a proposed project. Funding is a critical component to the success of each stage.
Stage 1 Exploration
Exploration is the critical first step in determining a mine’s viability. The CuMo Project and others like it uses a combination of geochemistry, geophysics and geologic sampling to determine whether mineral deposits exist. If initial reports are positive, then exploratory drilling, sampling and mineral analysis is performed. Throughout the exploration, ICMC holds fast to industry best practices by investigating environmental issues, social and economic impacts and possible mining methods.
At this stage the Forest Service conducts an Environmental Assessment process which includes a public comment period and public information meetings. This process began in 2010 and is being amended this year. The end of Stage 1 is usually marked by a resource estimate and a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA).
It is important to note that not every successful exploration results in mine development. The CuMo Project is wrapping up Stage 1 and should be moving onto Stage 2, soon.
Stage 2 Pre-feasibility
This stage includes a detailed examination of environmental, social and economic issues as well as potential sites. Studies conducted in this phase offer the support and information required for the project to proceed to Stage 3 but it does not necessarily indicate that the CuMo mine will be developed. A Pre-feasibility Study is a more advanced study than the Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) which involves the work of many scientific experts, a large funding investment and coordination with many public entities. It identifies any additional information and data that may be required for a successful feasibility study to be conducted.
Stage 2 is completed when all of the necessary information and data has been gathered, analyzed and recorded. If the project is to move forward to Stage 3, the data, including the environmental studies, must support a feasibility study.
Stage 3 Feasibility
Once the CuMo Project has completed the pre-feasibility process, a full feasibility study is next. As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a mandatory component of Stage 3. The EIS will be completed only after all information regarding CuMo’s potential mine development has been obtained. The feasibility and EIS documents go hand–in-hand.
The feasibility study outlines the economics and profitability of the project and takes into account all environmental mitigation and reclamation considerations. The EIS document contains a detailed plan of operation and addresses how possible environmental impacts can be mitigated. The completion of Stage 3 is marked by the delivery of the feasibility study to CuMoCo leadership and the EIS to the government agencies. At the end of Stage 3 American CuMo Mining Corporation will carefully consider all the data and decide to either proceed with permitting, to recycle back to Stage 2 to obtain more information or simply shelve the project.
Stage 4 Permitting
After the feasibility study and Environmental Impact Statement are complete, Stage 4 will follow with federal, state and local permitting processes. Permits are required for a wide variety of site development activities associated with the CuMo Project.
Stage 5 Construction
If federal, state, and local agencies approve permits for the CuMo Project and if all the necessary funds are secured, construction of the mine begins in accordance with the approved EIS and other permits. At this point, the exploration team will turn the project over to the construction team for the next phase, which employs the highest number of workers—an estimated 5,000 jobs to construct the CuMo mine. Construction is projected to take three to five years.
Stage 6 Production
At this stage, the CuMo Project will be in full production. The mine management team will run the day-to-day operations of the mine.
Stage 7 Mine Closure
For mines similar to that of the CuMo Project closure can take anywhere from two-to-ten years. The conversion process involves three main phases: dismantling the infrastructure, environmental reclamation, and post-closure management to monitor success of reclamation. The mine closure and reclamation stage is funded by a bond that is put in place before permits can be granted, this bond is required to pay the full cost of the stage and prevents the company walking away and leaving the reclamation to the public to fund.