In-situ copper recovery is an environmentally responsible way of extracting copper from the ground. A low-pH solution similar in strength to household vinegar slowly dissolves copper in the bedrock. At the same time this solution is being introduced into the copper ore body, it is also being drawn through the ore and extracted. More solution is pumped out than is pumped in, and the deposit is flushed with water after the copper extraction is complete, so none of the solution is left behind. The water just outside of the project area is continually monitored to ensure proper water quality.
Florence Copper operated a 24-wells facility, including four injection wells and nine recovery wells. Four geochemical sampling wells and seven observation wells were also used to verify that the solution was being recovered and groundwater is was unaffected. It operated for over 18 months. Operations included 24-hour site monitoring, sampling, and reporting to the ADEQ and EPA.
The Florence Copper Production Test Facility (PTF) was designed to prove that in-situ recovery can be done responsibly. Environmental and water quality monitoring was on-going throughout the operation. The purpose of the PTF was to demonstrate that copper ore can safely be extracted using ISCR technology so that the much larger full-scale project could advance forward. The goal has been met.
Taseko and Florence Copper’s Contribution to Sustainability
Continued success for Taseko requires that we to do business "the right way," which means a steadfast commitment to employee safety, environmental protection, and delivering social value.
Taseko has appraised its operations, including Florence Copper, and undertaken an accounting of the value generated for employees and communities, measured against the environmental impact of the business.
In Sustainability: Our Low-Carbon Future, we freely offer the results of this examination so that those interested in the work we do are better able to consider the public value of our contribution.
Florence Copper worked with both the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to secure operating permits for the PTF.
The regulatory process included several public hearings where residents could give their comments about the permits. The below video shows one Florence participating in this process.
The facility operated for over 18 months under stringent permit conditions set by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Florence Copper demonstrated full hydraulic control of the solutions used to dissolve copper in the bedrock and ensured protection of underground sources of drinking water.
Operational and environmental monitoring confirmed successful wellfield hydraulic performance and that copper can be produced from the oxide zone of the ore body. Extensive environmental monitoring throughout the operations demonstrated compliance with permit requirements.
With the integrity and reliability of in-situ copper recovery now proven, Florence Copper is well on its way to move to commercial production. ADEQ issued a final Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) on December 8, 2020. The EPA deemed Florence Copper's Underground Injection Control permit administratively complete in October 2019. The other required environmental permit is the Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's technical review for the UIC permit identified no significant issues, and Florence Copper expects to receive the draft permit soon. A public comment period will follow the issuance of a draft permit, and once the final permit is received, construction of the commercial ISCR facility can commence.