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Gibraltar Mine development plan progresses

By MONICA LAMB-YORSKI
March 15, 2012 · Updated 10:53 AM
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Taseko Mines Limited announced this week it has seen a gross profit of $86.3 million and net earnings of $27 million ($0.14 per share) for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011.

Highlights outlined in a press release from the company show that revenues for 2011 were $251.9 million from the sale of 60.8 million pounds of copper and 974,000 pounds of molybdenum.

Revenues for the fourth quarter of 2011 were $60.5 million from the sale of 15.5 million pounds of copper and 269,000 pounds of molybdenum.

Locally Gibraltar’s total production for the year was 82.9 million pounds of copper and 1.3 million pounds of molybdenum.

Fourth quarter production was 22.3 million pounds of copper and 388,000 pounds of molybdenum. In addition, capital projects for the year totalled $63.9 million, of which $56.1 million was spent on the Gibraltar Development Plan 3 (GDP3).

Company president and CEO Russell Hallbauer says construction of Gibraltar Development Plan 3 is progressing as planned, on time and on budget. All major equipment has been purchased for the concentrator, molybdenum plant, and infrastructure, shipment of the long lead items has begun, foundations have been laid, and erection of the new buildings is well underway.

Gibraltar’s expansion will also mean an additional 150 full-time jobs, plus contractors working at the site.

Vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison says in 2012 the company will continue on with new spending on Gibraltar to conclude its $325 million investment, which will take the mine’s production capability from 80 million pounds of copper per year to 180 million pounds of copper per year.

“What does this mean for Williams Lake? It means a vital part of the local economy will remain strong and, barring some kind of calamity drastically affecting the world price of copper, people here in this region can rely on Gibraltar to continue to operate, employ people and spend money for a long time yet. Currently the mine life stretches out 27 years into the future,” Battison says.  He says 2011 was “a building year for Taseko,” and long-term value is being added to the company by building its assets.

“Two of those key assets are right here in the Williams Lake/Cariboo region — the Gibraltar Mine and New Prosperity,” he says.

On Nov. 8, 2011, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency posted the notice of commencement regarding the New Prosperity project, indicating the federal assessment is now underway. On Feb. 28, 2012 a work program commenced on site for the purpose of obtaining information required for the federal environmental review.

“We continue to move forward with New Prosperity’s federal environmental review process, which began in November 2011,” Hallbauer says. “The Minister of the Environment indicated that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) would use information gathered in the previous environmental assessment to support the new process. We expect the panel meetings to begin over the next few months.”

In the northern part of the province, a $20-million program has commenced at Aley, 140 kilometres north of Mackenzie, to advance that project into the feasibility and engineering stages. This program will further define the ore body, support the environmental baseline studies and inform the project feasibility study. It will also provide the basis for preliminary engineering and mine site planning, Hallbauer says. Included in the program is the construction of road access to the site, a contract awarded to the Tsay Keh Dene First Nations road building firm.

According to Taseko, realized copper prices were US$3.89 per pound in 2011, compared to US$3.60 per pound in 2010, and the London Metal Exchange average price of US$4 per pound. The difference from the LME average price stems from the timing of shipments of copper.

“Our strategy is to create shareholder value by growing the company organically, controlling capital and operating costs, and executing our projects in a sound, technical manner. Taseko looks forward to managing our diversified project pipeline and enhancing shareholder value in 2012,” Hallbauer says.