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INDUSTRIAL UPDATE 2024 : Copper production key at Gibraltar Mine

Gibraltar produced 123 million pounds of copper in concentrate in 2023

Richard Tremblay

Chief Operating Officer, Taseko

With global demand for copper reaching new heights, and economies around the world adopting low-carbon technologies and green energy options, the importance of copper production at Taseko’s Gibraltar Mine in the Cariboo can’t be overstated.

Gibraltar produced 123 million pounds of copper in concentrate last year – an increase of 26 per cent over 2022 levels. When combined with stronger copper prices and exceptional operational performance, Taseko’s flagship operation is poised for several more decades of strong and reliable production needed to support the “Green Economy.”

Gibraltar also produced 1.2 million pounds of molybdenum last year – a metal typically used in steel alloys (including stainless steel) to increase strength, hardness, electrical conductivity, and resistance to corrosion and wear. For molybdenum too, Gibraltar’s 2023 production exceeded the prior year by some 7.5 per cent.

More than 50 years have now passed since the Gibraltar copper-molybdenum mine began operating 20 km east of McCleese Lake, and 20 years since Taseko took over as mine operator. Notwithstanding all the copper-bearing ore that’s been mined over the decades, all the metal produced, jobs created and Cariboo families supported, the mine continues to evolve and grow.

In fact, 2024 will be another transitional year for an operation that’s been the leading job creator in the Cariboo for much of its storied history, employing more than 700 local men and women today.

In 2006, Taseko embarked on a major refurbishment and expansion of Gibraltar’s mining and milling infrastructure. Over the course of eight years and $800 million, the company implemented a multi-phase program of equipment and infrastructure modernization that transformed what was a small and aging mine into a world-class facility.

Now, 10 years later, Taseko is preparing for another major infrastructure project at Gibraltar – relocating one of the two in-pit crushers. These massive pieces of equipment are installed between active mining zones and on-site milling facilities in order to crush mineralized material and, in doing so, reduce haul-truck distances, there by increasing productivity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through fuel savings.

The in-pit crusher at Gibraltar will be moved this spring to facilitate the next phase of mining operations, which will see activity transition from Gibraltar pit into Connector pit.

Planning and preparation for the crusher move have been underway since 2022, with more than 80 per cent of total project capital (~$50 million) already spent. Several Cariboo businesses have been engaged as contractors on the massive project – including Peterson Contracting, Fraser Construction Services, Quality Excavating, and Triple P of Williams Lake, Summit Electric and AUL Industrial of Quesnel, and CIF Construction of Prince George.

With necessary earthworks preparation, concrete foundations and retaining walls construction complete, the physical move of the crusher station – a 1.6 million pound, 60-foot-tall structure – is scheduled for June.

Specialized equipment, known as self-propelled modular transporters (SPMT), has been brought in from Barrie, Ontario for the physical move of the crusher station. Once moved, the final step is to tie the conveyor system into the concentrator feed system, followed by commissioning of the entire line.

If it sounds like an ambitious project, it is. But being ambitious and resourceful comes with the territory when you’re operating one of Canada’s most significant mining operations and producing critical minerals for the world.

Of course, we don’t do it alone. the dedicated and experienced mining professionals at Gibraltar, and contractors and suppliers throughout the Cariboo, are required to manage such a large and complex project like the in-pit crusher move.

Thereis a lot to be proud of at Gibraltar. And, with at least two decades of mine life remaining, many more years to provide the opportunities, benefits and rewards it generates for our employees and operating communities in the Cariboo.

Richard Tremblay is the chief operating officer of Taseko Mines Ltd.

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