Adventus, Salazar delay construction of Ecuador project

El Domo – Curipamba project. (Image courtesy of Adventus Mining.)

Canadian miners Salazar Resources (TSX-V: SRL) and Adventus Mining (TSX-V: ADZN) have delayed the start of construction at their $250 million Curipamba-El Domo copper-gold project in Ecuador from October to the second quarter of 2024.

The schedule revision comes as the Andean country’s constitutional court suspended in August an executive decree allowing environmental consultations for mining and other projects. President Guillermo Lasso’s move sought to speed up permitting before the end of his term this year. 

Popular referendums are a necessary step for any company hoping to obtain a mining license in Ecuador. Without them, companies will have to wait longer than expected to have all permits in place before starting construction of a mine.

Two mining projects were able to benefit from Lasso’s decree before the halt. One of them was Adventus and Salazar’s, which had reached a preliminary investment protection agreement for the asset in June.

The other project is Atico Mining’s (TSX-V: ATY) La Plata polymetallic asset, which had been previously identified by Lasso as a “strategic project” and “a component of the country’s reactivation plan”. 

While the decree halt remains in place, Adventus and Salazar said they have continued advancing permitting for their project. 

The companies said they have just secured a positive Certificate of No Affect of Water by the Ministry of Environment and Water, which is considered to be a milestone permit, as it will allow them to build El Domo–Curipamba project’s infrastructure in an area with surface and ground water resources.

The project has also received authorization from the local municipality and fire department for the use of explosive storage-related infrastructure. These approvals are pre-requisites for securing a final permit from the Joint Command of the Armed Forces of Ecuador, the partners said.

The final step for the tailings dam construction has been completed with a design review and favourable technical report from the Ecuadorean Ministry of Energy and Mines. 

This design is now being reviewed by Agency of Regulation and Control, Adventus, which holds a 75% stake in the project, Adventus and Salazar said in the statement.

Once built, Curipamba-El Domo will be the third operating mine considered key by Ecuador’s government. To date, the country’s only two producing assets are the Mirador copper mine, run by China-backed Ecuacorriente and Lundin Gold’s (TSX: LUG) Fruta del Norte gold mine.

$1 billion investment blocked

Mining was Ecuador’s fourth-largest source of income last year, behind sales of oil, bananas and shrimp, bringing in $2.8 billion to the state’s coffers.

According to the country’s Chamber of Mining, opposition to extractive activities is blocking nearly $1 billion in potential investment and 100 projects for the next two years.

An exception is SolGold’s (LON: SOLG) Cascabel copper-gold project, which was granted in July a 25-year license renewal.

The El Domo – Curipamba project is viewed by Adventus as the next modern mine in Ecuador, leveraging one of highest copper-gold grades and lowest capital intensities globally.

El Domo is the name of the high-grade deposit hosted within the approximately 21,500 ha Curipamba property, located 150 km northeast of the major port city of Guayaquil in central Ecuador.