MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada: Rio Tinto's Casino bet

Published by MAC on 2021-06-04
Source: CBC News, White Horse Star

Another foothold in Canada's North.

The project is located on Crown land, administered by the Yukon Government. According to the Yukon Land Claims Final Umbrella Agreement, the Casino Project site lies within the traditional territory of the Selkirk First Nation and the project’s road access falls within the traditional territories of both the Selkirk and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nations. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory intersects the project footprint at the Yukon River. Casino is proposing a conventional open-pit, truck and shovel operation, expected to process about 120,000 tonnes of ore per day over a 22-year mine life.

See also:

2021-04-14 Calibre Mining and Rio Tinto adventurism in Nicaragua

Rio Tinto invests millions in Casino mine project

One of the largest mining companies in the world has invested $25.6 million in the Casino project owned by the Western Copper and Gold Corp.

Chuck Tobin

May 25, 2021

The investment was announced last week by Paul West-Sells, president and CEO of Western Copper and Gold.

“We are pleased to welcome Rio Tinto as a strategic investor in the company,” West-Sells said in a press release.

“The investment by Rio Tinto, a leading global mining group which operates in 35 countries around the world, and whose purpose is to produce the materials essential to human progress is a strong endorsement of the Casino Project. We look forward to working with Rio Tinto to advance Casino.”

In an interview with the Star last week, the company president said the investment is not your typical investment.

It is largely to allow Rio Tinto to get a better understanding of the potential of the copper-gold deposit and the overall project, he explained.

West-Sells said some of the money will go into additional drill holes where Rio Tinto might want to confirm information about the deposit.

But the money is geared to funding Rio Tinto’s understanding of the Casino project by laying out all the information they have, such as the engineering to manage the tailings, he said.

West-Sells said the agreement calls for completion of the work in 18 months, with an option to extend the timeline by an additional 12 months.

“Casino is a world-class project and now we have a world-class investor working with us,” he said.

With the investment, Rio Tinto will own eight per cent of Western’s outstanding shares.

The investor agreement provides Rio Tinto with the rights to appoint one member to the Casino technical team and one non-voting observer to attend all meetings of Casino’s board of directors.

If Rio Tinto ups its ownership share to 12.5 per cent, it would have the right to appoint one director of the company, says the agreement.

The Casino property is located along the Yukon River, between Carmacks and Dawson City.

Western Copper spent about $4.5 million drilling the property last year with 30 to 40 employees on site, West-Sells said, adding this year’s program will be similar.

The company estimated several years ago that it would take a $2.5-billion investment to bring Casino into production.

West-Sells said Western Copper will use the proceeds for specific areas of study that will inform the company’s feasibility study, which he hopes to wrap up by the end of the year.

The Casino project has been submitted for review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

The board has elevated the project to a full panel review, the first by the board since it was created in 2003.

West-Sells said the feasibility study will form part of the Environmental and Socio-economic Statement they plan to file with the board next year.

Bringing the Casino project into production would provide an economic boost for the territory for 50 years, he said.

The company has estimated it would mill 120,000 tonnes per day, making it the largest mine in the Yukon’s history.

By comparison, when the Faro mine was in production from 1969 to 1998, with a four-year break, it was milling 13,000 tonnes per day at its peak.

Rio Tinto buys $25M stake in Yukon's Casino mine project

Mining conglomerate invests in Western Copper and Gold's massive project in central Yukon.

CBC News

May 17, 2021

Yukon's massive Casino mine project has a new investor, and it's one of the biggest mining companies in the world — Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto Canada Inc. has bought a $25.6-million stake in the Casino project which is owned by Western Copper and Gold.

"This is a large project and we've been pretty open that it was going to require probably a bigger company than ourselves to move it forward," said Paul West-Sells, CEO of Western Copper and Gold.

"Now we have ... depending on how you look at it, the second- or third-largest mining company in the world, with Rio Tinto involved."

The Casino project is located in central Yukon, about 300 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse. According to Western Copper and Gold, it's one of the largest copper-gold deposits in the world.

The project has been in the works for years and the proposed mine is now in the environmental assessment phase. If approved, the mine is expected to have a life of about 22 years, employing about 1,000 people during the four-year construction phase and 400 people when in operation.

"It's a big project. It's important for the economy, it's important for Canada," West-sells said.

He said the deal with Rio Tinto has been about 18 months in the making. With copper prices now soaring to record highs, he believes the time was right for Rio Tinto to seal the deal.

"These large mining companies, when commodity prices are are high, they usually have lots of cash on the books. And so they are trying to go out and spend it. One of the ways in which they spend it is to make investments in companies like ourselves," West-Sells said.

Western Copper and Gold will remain the sole owner of the Casino project, and its operator. Rio Tinto's investment will go toward a feasibility study and further exploration.

Rio Tinto will also have certain rights as an investor, including the right to appoint one member of the project's technical committee, and a non-voting observer to all of the company's board meetings.

The investment gives Rio Tinto — part owner of the N.W.T.'s Diavik Diamond Mine — another foothold in Canada's North.

It also "adds to the likelihood that Casino is going to be a mine sooner rather than later," West-Sells said.

"They're really excited to come up to the Yukon. They're going to be up there helping us with the exploration over the summer ... really, this is their introduction to the Yukon," he said.


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