The Schaft Creek Project in northwestern British Columbia has been extensively explored and drilled since its discovery in the 1950s, but it remains one of Canada’s largest undeveloped copper-molybdenum-gold-silver porphyry deposits. This is why when Copper Fox Metals – a small, private entity – got the option to acquire a 100 percent working interest in the project from Teck Resources in 2002, Copper Fox went public and moved forward on what it saw as a lot of potential in Schaft Creek.
“This project primarily has copper, gold and silver concentrate, and it has a five-year development time, although we think we can shorten that with concurrent activities,” Chairman, President and CEO Elmer Stewart explains. “Our study shows the initial mine life to be 21 years with 941 million tons of reserves. The feasibility study says it has 171 million metric tons of inferred resources, and if we can upgrade those to indicated or measurable resources, it will become a revenue-generator instead of an expense. We just have to do the drilling.”
The Schaft Creek Project is located about 28 miles west of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and nearly 50 miles south of Telegraph Creek in northwestern British Columbia. Consisting of more than 137,000 acres, the project will involve a conventional truck-shovel open-pit mining operation with a nominal 130,000-tons-per-day throughput over the life of the mine. Copper Fox expects the reserve to produce 47.4 million metric tons per year, although, as Stewart says, there is potential to extend the mine life with additional infill drilling to upgrade the 171 million metric tons of inferred resource located in the proposed open pit. Additionally, exploration of the Schaft Creek deposit to the east and north of the Paramount zone and north of the Liard zone, as well as the recently discovered Discovery zone, could extend the mine life of Schaft Creek.
Copper Fox is about to deliver Schaft Creek’s feasibility study to Teck Resources, and Steward explains Teck can elect to walk away, take $1 million in Copper Fox shares or take an option to acquire a 20 percent, 40 percent or 75 percent of the Copper Fox interest in the Schaft Creek project. This is a one-time election for Teck.
“It is a good scenario for us either way,” Stewart says. “Teck is a good operator and we like working with them. It’s nice to have a senior operator with good experience involved in a project.”
He is optimistic about the project’s success going forward, noting, “I feel only 70 percent of the deposit has been drilled.” Copper Fox also secured a facility at Port of Stewart, which meets shipping requirements for storage and loading of concentrate from the Schaft Creek mine.
Copper Fox conducted a number of trade-off studies related to the transportation, storage and loading of concentrate from Schaft Creek. They showed the Port of Stewart has the required capacity and was the shortest distance to a deep-water seaport, making it the most economical option, as well. The concentrate will be transported using a road from the Schaft Creek mine to Highway 37.
The Schaft Creek project is on the traditional lands of the Tahltan Nation, and Stewart says Copper Fox has been building a strong relationship with it from the start. Working with the Tahltan Central Council (TCC) and the Tahltan people to ensure “honest and transparent communication,” Copper Fox meets with the council on an ongoing basis and conducts community meetings to discuss the progress of the project. The company also seeks feedback from the council’s political leadership and community members.
Copper Fox has entered into several agreements with the TCC as well as the Tahltan Nation Development Corp. (TNDC), including:
•A memorandum of understanding with TNDC – This defines the scope of work, program commitments, cooperation and communication that Copper Fox will follow at Schaft Creek. It also recognizes TNDC as the project’s preferred contractor.
•Communication agreement with the TCC – Working to ensure strong communications between the company and TCC, this agreement outlines financial support Copper Fox will provide to TCC to ensure adequate financial resources are available for funding communications between the two groups.
•Heritage agreement – Under this agreement, Copper Fox will fund any collection of traditional knowledge and is responsible for ensuring the confidentiality of such information. The information is always owned by the Tahltan Nation and will be returned to the Nation following the environmental assessment.
•Tahltan Heritage Resources Environmental Assessment Team (THREAT) agreement – This outlines how Copper Fox and THREAT will work through the environmental assessment process and how the work will be funded.
“We have had a good relationship with the Tahltan Nation right from the get-go and we are working to ensure that continues,” Stewart says.