South32 to invest $2.1 billion in Hermosa project in Arizona

The Hermosa project in Arizona. (Image courtesy of South32.)

South32 (ASX, LON: S32) said on Wednesday that its Hermosa project in Arizona, currently the only advanced US mining project capable of producing two federally designated critical minerals (zinc and manganese), has received board approval for $2.16 billion in funding to develop the zinc-lead-silver deposit.

This represents the largest private investment in southern Arizona’s history, and the largest investment in the local Santa Cruz county economy to date by nearly nine times, the Australian miner said.

Last year, the Hermosa project became the first to be added to the United States’ FAST-41 permitting process, and the company said it has the potential to become one of the world’s largest zinc producers.

“Today’s investment decision represents a major milestone for our business and aligns with our strategy to reshape our portfolio toward commodities critical to a low-carbon future,” South32 CEO Graham Kerr said in a news release.

“[The] project will strengthen the domestic supply of critical minerals needed for clean energy technologies and national defense, reducing America’s reliance on foreign countries and transforming the local economy,” Hermosa project president Pat Risner added.

With a surface footprint of just over 600 acres and projected to use approximately 75% less water than other mines in the region, the operation has been designed to minimize its environmental impact, the company said.

The new investment will fund construction of key infrastructure projects, including water management systems, power, site facilities, underground shaft sinking, initial underground development and other work required to begin operations, it added.

Once completed, this infrastructure would support future potential development of other deposits at the site, including the battery-grade manganese deposit, South32 said.

Construction and mine development at Hermosa, made up of the Taylor (zinc-lead-silver) and Clark (zinc-manganese-silver) deposits, started last year with approvals from the State of Arizona.

“Development of the zinc deposit is the first phase of a regional-scale opportunity at Hermosa, with ongoing activities to unlock additional value from the manganese deposit,” Kerr said.

In January, South32 released a mine plan of operations as a roadmap of operational activities at the Hermosa project from start to finish located on lands managed by the Coronado National Forest.