Taseko may look into Gibraltar copper mine expansion after new claims acquisition

Shares in Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) (NYSEMKT:TGB) were slightly up Tuesday morning in Toronto after the company announced the acquisition of new mineral claims next to its Gibraltar mine, Canada’s second largest open pit copper mine.

The new claims, said the Vancouver-based company, represent nearly 6,000 acres of land located roughly 2 km from the extension zone of Gibraltar, which is also Canada’s second biggest copper-molybdenum operation.

According to Taseko, the area was explored about 30 years ago and it is associated with porphyry deposits. The company added that it is now in the late stages of compiling assay data from a recently completed exploratory drill hole along with other historical geological information.

The news comes two weeks after Taseko revealed it was considering restarting the molybdenum circuit at Gibraltar mine, which has been idled since the third quarter of 2015 due to low metal prices.

The Gibraltar mine produces an average of 138 million pounds of copper and 2.6 million pounds of molybdenum each year.

Like most commodities, molybdenum has recovered this year and it’s trading at about $6.50 a pound, while Taseko believes it can produce the metal for about $4 a pound.

The acquisition of new claims by the Gibraltar mine also comes on the heels of a $70,000 charge the operation was order to pay in late June after it pleaded guilty to five environmental offences under British Columbia’s Fisheries Act.

The mine, owned 75% by Taseko and 25% by Cariboo Copper Corp, will have to pay $65,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) and $5,000 as a fine.

As a result of the verdict, Gibraltar Mines Ltd. has been added to Canada’s environmental offenders registry, created in 2009, which contains the names of corporations convicted of offences under certain federal environmental laws.

The mine produces an average of 138 million pounds of copper and 2.6 million pounds of molybdenum each year. With 3.3 billion pounds of recoverable copper in reserves, it is estimated it has 24 productive years remaining.

Taseko is also planning to conduct test drilling for its controversial $1.5 billion New Prosperity gold and copper project, also in B.C, which has twice been rejected by Ottawa because of environmental concerns. If built, the mine would produce 247,000 ounces of gold and 108 million pounds of copper over an estimated 20-year lifespan.

Taseko’s shares were 1.5% up at 9:30 am in Toronto and have climbed almost 43% so far this year.