Recent assessments of deposits just east of the main Pebble Mine project northwest of Iliamna have confirmed the presence of another world-class metals porphyry, Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. reported in a press release.
Company President and CEO Ronald Thiessen said the latest resource estimate of deposits in the so-called East Zone, or Pebble East, shows that the zone represents “a significant increase in copper, gold and molybdenum resources for the overall Pebble Project and substantially augments its higher-grade resources.”
Pebble East borders what is now being called the Pebble West deposit, the area where Northern Dynasty Minerals’ American subsidiary, Anchorage-based Northern Dynasty Mines Inc., is preparing to construct what would be one of the world’s largest open-pit mines to access major deposits of the same metals already known to be there.
The company currently is assessing whether the newly confirmed deposits east of the main Pebble site can be mined using low-cost, bulk underground mining, rather than open-pit mining.
According to NDM, the Pebble East deposit is open to expansion in all directions and depths, and the potential for discovering further deposits is considered excellent, Thiessen said, adding that NDM is focusing on a complete assessment of the Pebble East deposits in an effort to integrate “this exceptional discovery” into an overall mine plan.
Current estimates of the richness of the Pebble East area are based on drill core assay results from 68,500 feet of drilling in 22 holes recently completed by the company.
A $20 million drilling program, however, is set to commence as soon as rigs with deep drilling ability can be sent to the site, probably in March.
Meanwhile, an ongoing feasibility study launched in 2004 on the Pebble West site, which the company originally expected to be complete by early this year, will continue in parallel with the Pebble East drilling program, NDM said.
“At this point, expectations are that the project will integrate production from high volume, low cost, open pit and underground mines,” the company press release said.
NDM said recently the Pebble East find has led the company to push back applying for mining state and federal permits until 2007 while further drilling and assay work in Pebble East is conducted.
In total, the east and west Pebble zones are thought to contain nearly 50.6 billion pounds of copper, 45.6 million ounces of gold, and more than 3.07 billion pounds of molybdenum in measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources.
Bob Dickinson, board chairman of Northern Dynasty Ltd., said the combined Pebble West and Pebble East deposits “rank among the largest copper, gold and molybdenum accumulations in the world.”
As drilling activities and planning efforts at the mine site are expanding, NDM officials are assessing facilities at Kenai Peninsula ports that could serve as jumping off sites for supplies and materiel if and when mine construction actually begins.
Northern Dynasty Mines’ Chief Operating Officer Bruce Jenkins said Monday that the company has been meeting with a variety of interest groups, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the cities of Homer and Kenai, and the borough of Kodiak as part of its corporate outreach program, giving officials and interested parties there an update on the timing of the project.
Among the issues being discussed are the latest estimates of the volumes, types and quantities of materials that might be expected to move over dock facilities in Homer and Kenai, and the layout of future port facilities at Williamsport.
Monday, Jenkins toured port facilities in Homer. He previously visited docks in Kenai. So far, he said, it appears what NDM will need already is here.
“In a nutshell, we are defining the need for port space, volumes of material, duration of shipping containers (time on dock),” he said. “We are hearing positive and enthusiastic statements about using existing facilities on the Kenai Peninsula.”
Jenkins said the company also is interested in hearing about peninsula fabrication facilities.
“All this is being factored into the feasibility study,” he said.
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