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 is pumped through injection wells and into the fractured copper-bearing rock underground. The solution extracts the copper and is then pumped back to the surface through surrounding recovery wells.
The Production Test Facility (PTF) at Florence Copper is designed to prove that in-situ recovery can be done responsibly. Environmental and water quality monitoring will be on-going throughout the operation.
Florence Copper will drill and operate 24 wells at the PTF, including four injection wells and nine recovery wells. Four geochemical sampling wells and seven observation wells will also be used to verify that the solution is being recovered and groundwater is unaffected. It will operate for one year, and may be extended for a second year. Operations will include 24-hour site monitoring, sampling, and reporting to the ADEQ and EPA. Commercial operating permits will only be issued if the facility is proved to operate safely.
The Production Test Facility (PTF)
The objective of the Production Test Facility (PTF) is to further enhance the potential for economic recovery of copper; however, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the ISCR process.
During the PTF phase, the company will evaluate design improvements to ensure full compliance with permit conditions enforced by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By optimizing and continuously improving water management practices and adopting new treatment technologies, we can ensure environmental integrity is maintained throughout the operational life of the project.
If it can't be done to highest environmental regulatory standards, it won’t be done – we are committed to that.
Florence Copper received an Air Quality permit for operations at Florence Copper from the Pinal County Air Quality Control District in 2012.
Any dust or emissions from the Florence Copper solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) plant are expected to be minimal and well within health standards enforced by Pinal County and the Environmental Protection Agency.
During full operations, an estimated 245 employees and contractors are likely to drive to the Florence Copper site each day. Shipment of equipment and supplies will require about 12 truck trips per day, while shipment of copper cathode will require an average of 3 truck trips per day. All truck and most car traffic will use state highways and major roads and will not enter residential neighborhoods.
As the project gets closer to full commercial production, Florence Copper will work with the Town of Florence and the community to look at transportation alternatives. These will likely include a potential rail spur to connect with the Copper Basin Railroad and trucking alternatives.
Florence Copper is working with both the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to secure operating permits. Operating and closure plans go through extensive reviews before permits are granted, and all Florence Copper activities will be monitored on a continual basis to ensure the project remains safe.
On September 28, 2012, Florence Copper Inc. received a Temporary Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) from ADEQ for the Phase 1 development of Florence Copper. This permit authorizes the construction, operation and closure of a 24-well in-situ copper recovery (ISCR) production test that will provide valuable data to regulatory agencies and Florence Copper about the environmental and operational performance of the project. We expect the Production Test Facility to prove the viability and safety of the ISCR process and ultimately lead to the development of a full-scale copper recovery facility at the site. Last year, the PTF permit was challenged in court. As a result, the Water Quality Appeals Board remanded the APP to ADEQ to address five specific issues identified in the Administrative Law Judge's ruling as needing further review. 93 other issues raised in the Complaint were rejected by the Administrative Law Judge. The remaining five issues must be addressed through an administrative process, which will include a public hearing and public comment period following the issuance of the Significant Amendment.
On December 8, 2014, the EPA issued a draft Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit to Florence Copper Inc. The UIC draft permit regulates the construction and operation of Florence Copper's injection wells at the site and is the final regulatory milestone required of Florence Copper to operate its Production Test Facility (PTF) in Florence, Arizona using in-situ copper recovery (ISCR) technology. The public had an opportunity to comment on the permit in early 2015, and now we are awaiting the finalization of this permit by the EPA.
Near term activities at Florence Copper will include project permitting through both state and federal agencies. Operating and closure plans will be fully reviewed before permits are granted, and all Florence Copper project activities will be continuously monitored to ensure full environmental protection.
Permits that the project must update and maintain include the following: