Taseko Mines intends to produce copper in Arizona through a process called situ leaching. The company stated that it plans to produce 38,555.4mt of copper annually which is sufficient for almost 500,000 electric vehicles.
This process involves injecting sulfuric acid and water deep underground to break up a mineral deposit.
Stuart McDonald, Taseko president, added that the process is environmentally friendly, and the technology will boost the country’s metal key production to the electrification plans outlined by US president, Joe Biden. According to ESG consultancy Skarn Associates, the process also emits less carbon than most copper mines.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to be convinced that the state’s water supply would not be affected through this process before production can begin. Joshua Alexander, the EPA spokesperson, stated that they are determining if the project adheres to rules that ensure underground water sources are not at risk of being contaminated and the National Historical Preservation Act.
A draft underground injection control (UIC) permit will be issued first by the EPA, followed by a public comment period before the final permit is issued. The EPA intends to issue the UIC during its current financial year, ending in September. The timing of the final permit is not yet determined, however, Taesko noted that operations can begin within 18 months of it being granted.