Copper Mountain Mine
Commodities: Copper (Cu), gold (Au) and silver (Ag)
Location: 20 km south of Princeton, BC.
Geology and Type of Deposit: Copper Mountain is located in the Intermontane belt of the Canadian Cordillera. It is a copper-gold porphyry deposit hosted in the Late Triassic (204 +/- 6 Ma) Nicola Group, made up of mainly volcanic and lesser sedimentary rocks cut by younger intrusions. Total resources are estimated at about 5 billion lbs. of copper, with additional gold and silver credits.
The Operation: Mining at Copper Mountain has occurred in phases, with shut down periods s triggered by low metal prices and high operating costs. Underground mining began at Copper Mountain in 1923 and continued until 1957. Mining resumed in 1972, with surface mining beginning in 1979 until late 1993, and then off and until the mine closed in1996.
Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (CMMC) acquired the mine in 2006 and undertook major exploration and feasibility studies to expand the project. Construction of new infrastructure began in 2010 and production began in June 2011. CMMC owns the mine with Mitsubishi Materials Corp. The mill currently processes 35,000 tonnes of ore each day. In 2016 the mine produced 83 million lbs copper, 30,800 oz. gold and 291,900 oz. silver.
Mining Method: Copper Mountain uses large equipment and conventional open pit methods to mine the ore. Mining is carried out in three separate pits that will eventually merge to form one super pit that allows better access to mineralized areas. Blasting is done 2-3 times a week. Blasted ore is loaded by hydraulic shovels into haul trucks that haul the ore to the primary crusher, and transport waste rock to waste rock dumps.
Mineral Processing: Crushed ore is conveyed (> 1 km) to the mill that can process ~35,000 tonnes of ore per day. The ore travels through ball mill circuits which pulverize ore to sand. The slurry is piped to flotation cells which float a copper concentrate to a cleaner flotation circuit, then finally to a thickener tank before being dried. Tailings from the flotation cells are then cycloned to remove water. Tailings are piped to the tailings pond; water in the pond is returned to the mill for reuse.
Markets: Copper Mountain's copper concentrate is transported by truck to Vancouver Wharves in the Port of Vancouver, where it is loaded onto bulk carriers and shipped to Japan for smelting and refining. The first shipment in 2011 was made up of 11,200 wet metric tonnes of concentrate containing approximately 5.6 million pounds of payable copper, 40,600 payable ounces of silver, and 2,470 payable ounces of gold.
Community and Employment: Copper Mountain Mine employs 260 people. Employees live in and around the community of Princeton.
BCMEM's Copper Mountain MINFILE profile.