Mount Milligan mine on verge of production – by Derrick Penner (Vancouver Sun – August 8, 2013)

Copper-gold project north of Prince George will be first new mine in B.C. in more than a decade

Crews at Thompson Creek Metals’ Mount Milligan project have started crushing rocks and are mere days away from turning on the milling machinery that will grind down the ore and start extracting copper and gold from the first new mine to open in British Columbia in more than a decade.

That development will turn the $1.57-billion construction project into an operating mine with the goal of commencing commercial production of ore sometime in the fall, churning out an estimate 40,369 tonnes (89 million pounds) of copper concentrate and 262,000 ounces of gold per year.

However, the mine’s opening coincides with an uncertain time for the mining sector with falling metals prices and companies such as Teck Resources scaling back capital projects.

“It’s a bit of a mixed environment” for copper miners, according to Patricia Mohr, vice-president of industry and commodity research for Scotia Economics.

Copper prices remain relatively high now, Mohr said, but she is forecasting that prices will fall as new mines open up while the economy remains stagnant.

“They’re not necessarily going to move down to recession levels, but what we are going to see is new mine expansion around the world after many years of very limited new mine activity coming on stream.”

Copper prices, which hit record highs over $4.50 US per pound in 2011, have dipped into the low $3 US per pound range.

Mohr noted that the price rose Thursday, closing at $3.27 US, due to more favourable economic news out of China, but she is forecasting that the price will fall below $3 US in the coming months as new mines — such as Mount Milligan — open.

While it is not a high point of the commodities cycle, Thompson Creek spokeswoman Jocelyn Fraser said the Mount Milligan mine, located in B.C.’s remote central interior between the towns of Fort St. James and Mackenzie, is still in a good position.

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