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Taseko ramping up Florence copper operations in test phase

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Taseko ramping up Florence copper operations in test phase

Taseko Mines Ltd. ramped up injection and recovery processes in a test phase of its Florence copper project in Arizona, it said Jan. 8.

Copper-bearing leach solution was flowing as expected at the in situ recovery project, where a weak acid solution is injected into the deposit via a well field to extract copper.

Taseko started ramping up the test phase of the Florence project last year, after approving construction in 2017, as it eyes full commercial production at Florence down the road.

"The well field and the solvent extraction-electrowinning facility are to help us do two things: show we can control the leach solution flow through the orebody ... and produce London Metal Exchange-grade cathode from the pregnant leach solution," Russell Hallbauer, Taseko President and CEO, told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

A critical part of controlling the flow of the injected solution is to make sure it does not contaminate water near the deposit. Citing fears over water pollution, opponents of the project tried but failed to have permitting of the project halted in the run up to construction of the test facility.

Hallbauer said Taseko could recover between about 2 million to 3 million pounds of copper during the test phase, depending on how intensely and how long the company runs the facility. He also said the test phase would allow Taseko to ramp up commercial production more quickly than "with any other type of project."

A Florence study released in early 2017 outlined a 21-year operation producing an average 81 million pounds copper per year with a US$920 million pretax net present value using a 7.5% discount rate.