Nuton

Thirty minutes north of Melbourne, the second largest city in the Land Down Under, sits the Bundoora Technical Development Centre, the center of innovation for Nuton’s groundbreaking technology.

Outside Bundoora Technical Development Centre

Surrounded by a lush gathering of trees and close enough to the Australian coast to feel a slight ocean breeze, the Technical Development Centre, known simply as Bundoora by Nuton and Rio Tinto teammates, is located in a beautiful spot.

“People drive through the gate in the morning, and they can’t help but be relaxed and inspired,” says Jared Osborne, General Manager of Technical Development at Rio Tinto. “Kangaroos are hopping around, the occasional big rabbit, some foxes. It’s really quite something.”

Jared says he feels even more energized when he sees the world of immense growth and possibility happening inside Bundoora.

Teams of dedicated scientists, like Jared, have already come so far and achieved so much in nearly 30 years of research and innovation at Bundoora. Back in the early 1990s, Rio Tinto executives at our Kennecott operations in Utah were looking for a solution that could minimize the amount of wasted ore bodies that were unsuitable for traditional processing. The waste was burdensome, economically unviable, and importantly—with notable implications on the environment.

In 1996, a small group of scientists working at Bundoora took a huge leap forward, finding a copper leaching technology that could extract premium quality copper with less water usage and a much smaller carbon footprint. That solution is at the heart of our new Rio Tinto venture, Nuton.

“This was a major breakthrough for a metal that we absolutely need as part of the energy transition. Copper is so vital to it,” says Jared, who joined Bundoora in 1997. “We can make a significant impact on global emissions and the legacy we leave behind with a nature-based solution.”

Putting Samples into a MLA (Mineral Liberation Analyzer).

Over the years, technology and innovation milestones have stacked up at Bundoora. From those first tests in 1996 to small and large column tests in 2006 to a pilot plant in 2012, Bundoora teammates have seen the Nuton technology evolve and ramp up significantly.

Next is to deploy this technology on a large scale, where it can truly create a positive impact on the world. It’ll be an exciting challenge, made possible by the team at Bundoora comprised of some of the brightest minds in the field.

With a diverse team of experts from all over the world, celebrating each other’s culture and championing inclusion are major aspects of the magic at Bundoora. It’s common for teammates to bring in traditional food from their homeland to share with everyone at lunch and for all to truly get to know each other on a personal level.

Those kinds of things are organic and frequent at Bundoora.

“We’ve recruited the best in the world for over 30 years and we’ve ended up with a magnificent mix of people,” says Jared. “It really does feel like a family.”

Employees at Rio Tinto’s new battery research and testing laboratory at Bundoora Technical Development Centre

Casa Grande, AZ and Toronto, ON, February 21, 2024 – Arizona Sonoran Copper Company Inc. (TSX:ASCU | OTCQX:ASCUF) (“ASCU” or the “Company”) today announced it has completed its NI 43-101 Prefeasibility Study (“PFS”) for its Cactus Project in Arizona, USA. The Standalone PFS outlines a lower risk, top 10 potential copper operation in the domestic USA, producing LME Grade A copper cathodes onsite via heap leach and a Solvent Extraction/Electrowinning (“SXEW”) plant. All dollar amounts referenced herein in US dollars, and all references to tons are short tons, unless otherwise noted. 

The Company intends to file a technical report (the “Technical Report”) in respect of the PFS in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”) on SEDAR+ (www.sedarplus.ca) under the Company’s issuer profile and the Company’s website within 45 days of the date of this news release.

A webinar will be held on February 22, 2024, at 10:00 am ET. Please join George Ogilvie, Nick Nikolakakis, Bernie Loyer and Anthony Bottrill in discussion of the PFS and the Company’s next steps by registering here https://www.bigmarker.com/vid-conferences/ASCU-VID-THF

Cactus PFS Highlights
Scalable, Long-Life Operations 
  • Average annual production of approximately 55 ktons or 110 million pounds (“lbs”) of copper (“Cu”), with a peak of 74 ktons or 149 million pounds of copper
  • Initial Life of Mine (“LOM”) 21 years, recovering 1,153 ktons or 2.31 billion pounds of Copper LME Grade A cathode onsite via heap leach facility and SXEW
  • Maiden Proven & Probable (“P&P”) Reserves of 276.3 million tons at 0.48% Soluble Copper (“Cu TSol”) or 3.0 Billion lbs Copper
  • Favourable metallurgy with a range of 85%-92% LOM average soluble copper recoveries 
  • Private land ownership with streamlined permitting process
  • Low carbon footprint mining project:
    • Powered by an existing 69 KV Transmission line with access to “Green Energy” through the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant West of Phoenix for costs of $0.07/kWh
    • Heap Leach and SXEW Process
    • Conveyors and radial stackers used to move ore to leach pads 
Robust Economics
  • First quartile capital intensity of $10,343/tonne of average annual production
  • Total initial capital cost of $515 million, including $75 million of contingencies over an 18-24 month construction period
  • Total revenues of $9.0 billion over 21 years 
  • Post-tax unlevered Free Cash Flow of $2.4 billion
  • C1 Cash Costs of $1.84/lb and All in Sustaining Cost (“AISC”) of $2.34/lb 
  • Post-tax net present value (“NPV”) $509 million (CA$687 million) using an 8% discount rate and an internal rate of return (“IRR”) of 15.3% and using a $3.90/lb flat long-term copper price
    • Pre-tax NPV $733 million (CA$990 million)
  • Post-tax payback period of 6.8 years from initial production 
  • At $4.25/lb Copper the NPV increases to $780 million post-tax (CA$1,054 million) and $1,064 million pre-tax (CA$1,436 million), using an 8% discount rate 
Significant Copper Project in the USA
  • Proven & Probable (“P&P”) Reserves of 276.3 million tons at 0.48% Soluble Copper (“Cu TSol”) or 3.0 Billion lbs Copper
  • Underground Proven Reserve grade of 0.89% and 0.82% Cu TSol from Cactus East and Parks/Salyer, respectively 
  • Measured & Indicated Resources of 5.2 billion lbs Copper and Inferred Resources of 2.2 billion lbs Copper (as announced October 16, 2023) (inclusive of reserves)
Future Opportunities to Further Improve Business Case
  • Drilling to upgrade known inferred resources and bring them into the mine plan potentially increasing the LOM production, reducing underground development costs, operating expenses, capital expenses and overall strip ratio 
  • Drilling to prove a maiden resource at MainSpring as a potential open pit providing operational flexibility and gaining lower cost access to the Parks/Salyer deposit. Bringing MainSpring into the mine plan potentially improves operational and financial synergies within the Cactus Project 
  • Continued exploration success on the Cactus Project in the “Gap Zone”, below the envelope of the existing Cactus West Open Pit Shell and in the North-East Extension. 
  • Nuton LLC’s (“Nuton”) leaching technology driving primary sulphide optionality, currently excluded from the mine plan

George Ogilvie, ASCU President and CEO commented, “The 55,000-ton Copper Cathode per annum mine plan presented in the PFS illustrates an achievable long-life operation with robust economics and an opportunity for continued scaling of the asset. Our operation has the potential to be among the top 10 copper operations within the US, supplying the domestic supply chain with copper cathodes in the near term. With global copper mine disruptions occurring and a structural deficit currently underway, our timing to develop the asset has a high likelihood to coincide with much higher copper incentive prices. As compared to the original PEA, the PFS demonstrates a significant increase of free cash flow at a conservative long-term copper price assumption of $3.90 per pound.” 

He continued, “A real organic growth opportunity exists within our 5,370 acres at the MainSpring Property. Based on initial drilling of our MainSpring property there are early indications for Mainspring to be the southern near surface extension of our Parks/Salyer deposit and thus will be a focus of drilling in 2024. Through our 2024 drilling programs, our team has the potential to convert the 1.3 billion pounds of leachable inferred resources of copper to the indicated resources category, contributing to an extended mine life. Over and above, ASCU also looks forward to the continued metallurgical testing and incorporation of the Nuton technology to our Cactus flowsheet, which if executed, lowers our cost of capital, provides a funding partner for the initial capex and ongoing operating costs, as well as provides execution support from a top global mining partner.”

“With this cornerstone now placed, we are excited to continue building Cactus, which today is a significant asset, with plenty of future optionality to continue upgrading the asset with scale.” 

Bernie Loyer, ASCU SVP Projects notes “Our Cactus Project PFS demonstrates a solid business case, and the potential to deliver a long-life operation utilizing a well-established and industry proven process technology in the treatment of ore from four separate and well understood feed sources.  All situated on privately held ground, this brownfield project site located within 45 minutes of the Phoenix city center which is the 10th largest metropolitan area within the United States, is wrapped with an enviable complement of all required infrastructure. Add to all of that, a project team with a strong combination of project and operational experience on complex mining projects throughout North and South America, and the foundation for the Cactus Project and future operation is well-placed.”

Pre-Feasibility Summary

The 2024 PFS outlines a lower risk and long-life copper project with low first quartile capital intensity. The heap leach operation will produce on average 55 kstpa of LME Grade A copper cathodes via SXEW. Key metrics are shown in TABLE 1 below.

Conventional open pit mining methods have been selected for the extraction of oxide and secondary sulphide material from the lower grade Cactus West pit, while the higher-grade Parks/Salyer and Cactus East deposits will be mined via underground using the Sublevel Caving (“SLC”) method from the 1,500 ft (457 m) and 1,200 ft (366 m) levels, respectively. Reserve grades of the Parks/Salyer and Cactus East deposits are high grade, at 0.93% CuT and 0.95% CuT, and 0.82% Cu TSol and 0.89% Cu TSol, respectively. The Stockpile will be a rehandling exercise moving low grade tonnage to a lined pad for leaching. Onsite facilities at the mine site will consist of an open pit, underground mining operations, a fine crushing plant incorporating all crushing, classification, agglomeration and conveying systems and an SXEW process plant. On site supporting infrastructure will include site power distribution, access roads and heap leach facilities.  

Table 1: 2024 PFS Highlights 

FIGURE 1: Annual Revenues and EBITDA Over Annual Production 

TABLE 2: Pre- and Post-Tax Sensitivity to the Copper Price

1 Payback period calculated starting from start of commercial production

Project Overview

The Cactus Mine Project is a brownfield project located approximately 6 mi (10 km) northwest of the city of Casa Grande and 40 road miles south-southwest of the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona. The Cactus Mine Project is accessible on North Bianco Road off of West Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway with direct access to interstate highway 10. During historic ASARCO operations (1974-1984), a rail spur was connected directly with the United Pacific Railroad to ship concentrates to its El Paso refinery in Texas; while the spur has been removed, the onsite rail line is still in existence. Current onsite infrastructure includes power lines and substation, water wells and a water pond, geological buildings, core sheds and administrative offices, keeping the capital intensity low and demonstrating robust economics.

Since 2019, ASCU has drilled 141 new holes at the Cactus West and East deposits to support verification, metallurgical testing, and resource extension for the Cactus mineral resource estimate. The Parks/Salyer resource database is composed primarily of 74 new holes drilled by ASCU between late 2020 and 2023. The historical ASARCO holes for the district comprised of 171 drillholes. The bulk of these holes were in the Cactus West and Cactus East deposits or comprised regional exploration holes. An extensive verification and re-assay programs were undertaken to support the use of historical drilling in resource estimates. Since 2020, ASCU has drilled 514 sonic drillholes to support resource estimates on the stockpile. In addition to verification of historical drilling, for all ASCU holes physical checks on collar, downhole survey, logging, and assay quality assurance and quality control (“QA/QC”) have been completed by the qualified person.

The Cactus Mine Project is host to a large porphyry copper system that has been dismembered and displaced by Tertiary extensional faulting. The major host rocks are Precambrian Oracle Granite and Laramide monzonite porphyry and quartz monzonite porphyry. The mine trend features the formation of horst and graben blocks of mineralization where the Cactus deposits are situated, extending from the Cactus East deposit, southwest to the Parks/Salyer deposit. Drilling to the northeast and southwest along the trend indicates that mineralization continues in both directions and at depth at the Cactus West deposit. 

FIGURE 2: Cactus 2024 PFS Production Profile: Mined Tons and Recovered Copper 

Reserves and Resources

The PFS is based on the updated 2023 Mineral Resource Estimate (“MRE”), as published on October 16, 2023, showing a 221% increase of leachable Measured and Indicated (“M&I”) pounds over the mineral resource base used in the 2021 PEA. The Mineral Resources and Reserves for the Cactus Mine Project are shown in TABLES 3 and 4 and illustrated in FIGURE 3 below. 

FIGURE 3: Isometric View of the Copper Mineral Estimation Domains

Table 3: Cactus Project Total Measured, Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource

Notes:
1.    Leachable copper grades are reported using sequential assaying to calculate the soluble copper grade. Primary copper grades are reported as total copper, Total category grades reported as weighted average copper grades of soluble copper grades for leachable material and total copper grades for primary material. Tons are reported as short tons.
2.    Stockpile resource estimates have an effective date of 1 March 2022, Cactus resource estimates have an effective date of 29th April 2022, Parks/Salyer resource estimates have an effective date of 19th May 2023. All resources use a copper price of US$3.75/lb.
3.    Technical and economic parameters defining resource pit shell: mining cost US$2.43/t; G&A US$0.55/t, 10% dilution, and 44°-46° pit slope angle.
4.    Technical and economic parameters defining underground resource: mining cost US$27.62/t, G&A US$0.55/t, and 5% dilution.
5.    Technical and economic parameters defining processing: Oxide heap leach (HL) processing cost of US$2.24/t assuming 86.3% recoveries, enriched HL processing cost of US$2.13/t assuming 90.5% recoveries, Primary mill processing cost of US$8.50/t assuming 92% recoveries. HL selling cost of US$0.27/lb; Mill selling cost of US$0.62/lb.
6.    Royalties of 3.18% and 2.5% apply to the ASCU properties and state land respectively. No royalties apply to the MainSpring (Parks/Salyer South) property.
7.    For Cactus: Variable cutoff grades were reported depending on material type, potential mining method, and potential processing method. Oxide material within resource pit shell = 0.099% TSol; enriched material within resource pit shell = 0.092% TSol; primary material within resource pit shell = 0.226% CuT; oxide underground material outside resource pit shell = 0.549% TSol; enriched underground material outside resource pit shell = 0.522% TSol; primary underground material outside resource pit shell = 0.691% CuT.
8.    For Parks/Salyer: Variable cut-off grades were reported depending on material type, associated potential processing method, and applicable royalties. For ASCU properties – Oxide underground material = 0.549% TSol; enriched underground material = 0.522% TSol; primary underground material = 0.691% CuT. For state land property – Oxide underground material = 0.545% TSol; enriched underground material = 0.518% TSol; primary underground material = 0.686% CuT. For MainSpring (Parks/Salyer South) properties – Oxide underground material = 0.532% TSol; enriched underground material = 0.505% TSol; primary underground material = 0.669% CuT.
9.    Mineral resources, which are not mineral reserves, do not have demonstrated economic viability. The estimate of mineral resources may be materially affected by environmental, permitting, legal, title, sociopolitical, marketing, or other relevant factors.
10.    The quantity and grade of reported inferred mineral resources in this estimation are uncertain in nature and there is insufficient exploration to define these inferred mineral resources as an indicated or measured mineral resource; it is uncertain if further exploration will result in upgrading them to an indicated or measured classification.
11. Totals may not add up due to rounding.

As shown in TABLE 4below, a total of 276 million short tons or 3.0 billion pounds were converted into a P&P Reserve out of the leachable M&I Resource base of 4.43 billion lbs, representing a conversion rate of 68%. The Inferred material and primary sulphides are treated as waste, with conversion drilling at Cactus West, a focus for 2024 as part of the dual track ASCU/Nuton Work Plan as announced on January 30, 2024. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.

Table 4:  Cactus Mine Project Reserves Statement by Deposit

Notes to the Mineral Reserves:
1.    Mineral Reserves have an effective date of November 10, 2023. The Qualified Person for the underground estimates of Cactus East and Parks/Salyer is Nat Burgio of AGP Mining Consultants Inc. The Qualified Person for the open pit estimates of Cactus West and Stockpile is Gordon Zurowski of AGP Mining Consultants Inc.
2.    The Mineral Reserves were estimated in accordance with the CIM Definition Standards for Mineral Resources and Reserves.
3.    The Mineral Reserves are supported by a combined open pit and underground mine plan, based on open pit and underground designs and schedules, guided by relevant optimization procedures.
Inputs to that process are: 
•    Metal prices of Cu $3.70/lb.
•    Processing costs which are variable and based upon material type, processing destination, copper grade, and copper recovery. Processing costs include a fixed unit cost component, a net consumption cost, and a cost for refining and selling copper cathode. 
•    General and administration cost of $0.47/ton processed.
•    Royalty cost of 2.5% for BCE land and 2.54% for Parks/Salyer, Cactus and Stockpile Ores, excluding BCE ore – royalty discussion noted below.
•    Process recoveries which are variable depending upon mineralization type, sequential copper grades, and comminution size. 
•    Open pit geotechnical design criteria from Call and Nicholas, Underground geotechnical design criteria from Call and Nicholas, Open pit mining costs including an escalation factor with pit depth.
•    Underground mining cost of $27.62. 
4.    The footprint delineations for the Cactus East and Parks/Salyer mines were based on a resource model block cash flow dollar value (CFTC1) of $27.62 (net of process, G/A and royalties). Drawpoints were shut-off when the grade value fell below a CFTC1 of $27.62 following the necessary removal of swell material within the footprint.
5.    Dilution and mining loss adjustments are incorporated into the underground mining inventories by way of cave flow modelling software.  Inferred resources included in the mixing process have been assigned zero grade. No allowance for mining dilution or ore loss has been provided in the open pit mining inventories.

Mining Operations

The Cactus Mine plan includes production from four separate mining areas: Cactus West Open Pit, Historical Stockpile, Cactus East Underground, and Parks/Salyer Underground. Ore processing in the mine schedules involves oxides and secondary sulphides being processed on a heap leach after multi-stage crushing. 

The mine production schedule is initially focused on the surface sources of ore (Stockpile and Cactus West Open Pit) beginning in year -1, along with Parks/Salyer underground starting development in Year 1. The Cactus East deposit is developed later in the mine life, starting in Year 8. Cactus West and the Stockpile ore sources are depleted in Year 7 after which the ore stream becomes exclusively underground. The overall site layout is shown in FIGURE 8

The Cactus West mine life consists of 2 phases and includes one year of pre-stripping and seven years of mining. Phase 1 starts with 24 million tons (“Mt”) of pre-production stripping and is completed in Year 4. Phase 2 mining begins in Year 2 and is mined out in Year 6. Target ore production is 12 Mt per annum with a peak mining rate of 47 Mt in Years 2 and 3. A total of 75.5 Mt of leach ore grading 0.307% total copper is mined at a strip ratio of 1.9 to 1. Bench elevations at Cactus West range from the 1,440-ft level to the 380-ft level.

FIGURE 4: Cactus West After Phase 1 and Phase 2

Over the course of the open pit mine schedule, approximately 13.1 Mt of low-grade ore is stockpiled and reclaimed in order to smooth the ore release from the open pits. This amount includes approximately 3.0 Mt of material stockpiled in the first three years of mining, and then processed in Year 3 and 4, and another 10 Mt stockpiled later in the mine schedule before being reclaimed in Years 7 and 8.

Historic Stockpile (FIGURE 5) mining begins near the end of the pre-production year with approximately 3.0 Mt of ore sent to the leach pad. Mining continues concurrently with the Cactus West pit into Year 7 at an annual ore production rate of 12 Mt. A total of 76.8 Mt of leach ore at 0.163% total copper is mined. A small amount, 5.5 Mt of waste is mined from the historic stockpile and sent to the waste storage areas.

Figure 5: Stockpile Mining

The initial Parks/Salyer SLC (FIGURE 6) level will commence at 1,120 ft (341 m) below surface and include 11 sublevels to a final depth of 1,930 ft (588 m) below surface. Access to the Parks/Salyer deposit will be via a surface portal and twin declines. One decline will be dedicated to ore haulage using an inclined conveyor and the other decline providing access for personnel and equipment. Production extends from year 1 to 20, with steady state production beginning in year 7 to year 20, peaking at 6.9 Mtpa in year 13. A total of 96 Mt of leach ore @ 0.82% Cu TSol will be processed.

The initial Cactus East SLC (FIGURE 7) level will commence in year 9 at 1,325 ft (404 m) below the surface and will be comprised of 7 sublevels to a final depth 1,845 ft (562 m) below surface. Access will be via a single decline with a portal located within the existing Cactus West pit. Ore haulage to surface will be via a vertical conveyor which can be supplemented with truck haulage to surface via the open pit if necessary. Production is planned from year 9 to 19, with steady state production beginning in year 12, peaking at 3.9 Mtpa in year 15. A total of 28 Mt of leach ore @ 0.89% Cu TSol will be processed.

SLC production crosscuts have primarily been designed so that each level is horizontally offset from the level above and below. The design parameters for the SLC production drives at Cactus East and Parks/Salyer are in line with other SLC operations. 

The amount of ore to be extracted will be limited in the upper three production levels to the following proportions:
•    First Level ~40% (swell only)
•    Second Level ~60%
•    Third level ~100%
•    Lower levels >100% to shutoff grades or dollar values.

The production strategy will help control caveability, minimise the formation of air gaps and create a blasted ore blanket above the production levels to minimise early dilution entry from the overburden rocks. These restricted draw rates also apply to areas where large step-outs distances are required from one sublevel to the next.

The Cactus East Ore/Waste Handling System consists of a crusher station and a 1,600 ft (488 m) vertical conveyor with a capacity of 630 tons/h that will convey ore from the top of the orebody to surface via a vertical raise feeding an overland conveyor.  Ore will be hauled by 55-ton diesel trucks to a sizer located adjacent to the bottom of the vertical conveyor.  Ore will be crushed to a maximum 6-in dimension.  A short conveyor from the sizer will feed the vertical conveyor. Waste will be trucked to the portal for disposal within the Cactus West open pit.

The mine plan for Parks/Salyer consists of two ramps with one dedicated for material handling. The ore/waste handling system consists of a series of initially four, extending to five switchback conveyors and two crushing sizers on -270 L, one of which will subsequently be relocated at the -470 L. that will deliver material from the mine working levels to the surface portal, from where materials will then be transported on surface via an overland conveyor.

Ventilation is driven by a fresh air drive developed from the access drive, in which the fresh air will be splitting right and left to connect to the return air drives at the extremities of the footprint. This allows natural flow of ventilation through the entire footprint.

Figure 8: Overall Site Layout

Processing Operations

Material mined from the existing stockpile will be placed in 20-ft lifts and material from all other sources will be stacked in 30-ft lifts. Material will be reclaimed and transferred by haul truck to the crushing circuit where it will be crushed down to P80 minus ¾-in.  From the crushing circuit, the material will transfer by overland conveyor to the agglomeration drums, mobile transfer conveyors, and mobile radial stacker to be placed on the geomembrane lined heap leach facility (HLF). 

Leaching solutions, containing dilute sulfuric acid will be pumped and applied to the top of each lift and allowed to percolate though the copper leach material. Copper is dissolved into the solution while acid is consumed at approximately 13.6 lb/ton of material leached. Acid consumption is net of regenerated acid in the SXEW process. The height of the leach material on the pad will eventually reach approximately 180 ft (55 m) in overall height.

The pregnant leach solution (PLS) collected from the HLF will be conveyed in pipes to the heap leach ponds where it will be pumped for processing in a copper SX/EW plant capable of producing initially up to 30,000 ton/y of copper cathodes with a design PLS flow of up to 12,000 gpm and grade at approximately 3.0 g/pL Cu based on an overall 71% total copper (85-92% soluble copper) recovery from the heap leaching method for the resources considered. The solvent extraction plant is designed to be operated in a series, parallel, or series-parallel configurations with a single stage of stripping. The optionality of the solvent extraction plant will allow the plant to operate at 4,000 gpm, 8,000 gpm, or 12,000 gpm PLS flowrates based on the variability in copper grades and tonnages in the mine plan.

The electrowinning circuit capacity will be expanded in Year 3, doubling in size to the overall plant capacity required to a nominal 60,000 ton/y of copper cathodes.

The principal objective of the HLF design is to efficiently extract copper by leaching metals within the geotechnically stable facility. The anticipated ore production will be approximately 65,000 tons/d for the first seven years and reduced to 24,500 tons/d after that for the life-of-mine (LOM) for an average of 55,000 tons of cathode production annually. The pad will be loaded with conveyor belts coming in from the west along the northern side of the pad to discharge to the eastern area of the pad (Phase 1). This area provides a relatively flat area that facilitates the construction of the first phase of the pad and allows for mining of the existing stockpile to liberate additional space for the consecutive phases of construction. A visual representation of the flow sheet is depicted below, in FIGURE 9.

FIGURE 9: Process Flowsheet (Conceptual Flow Diagram)

Cost Estimates

The capital cost estimates for the PFS were developed with a -15% to +20% accuracy and an estimated contingency of approximately 15% according to the Association of the Advancement of Cost Engineering International Class 4 estimate requirements. The estimates include the cost to complete the design, engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of all process plant facilities.

The project capital cost estimate was compiled by Ausenco Engineering USA South Inc. (“Ausenco”) with input from AGP and Samuel Engineering for the open pit, underground mining operation, SXEW process plant, conveying, crushing and screening equipment, site sub-station, site power distribution, access roads, heap leach facilities and associated infrastructure. all direct costs, growth allowances, project indirect costs, and associated contingency within their scope of work, but separately identified. 

An 18–24-month construction period is projected with the initial capital costs and sustaining development costs summarized in the table below. 

Table 5: Initial and Sustaining Capital Costs (18% LOM contingency included)

Operating Cost Summary

Mining operating cost estimates, prepared by AGP, are based on a small owner’s team managing mining activities using an owner-operator model. Process operating cost estimates were prepared by Samuel Engineering and G&A cost estimates were prepared by Ausenco with input from ASCU, as summarized in the table above.

Unit Cost table 

Operating costs have been based on a delivered diesel price of $3.49 per gallon and are in line with current local pricing. Power will be sourced from a grid supplying 69kv to site, with power costs estimated at $0.07/kWh. 

Site Infrastructure Summary

The facilities at the mine site will consist of an open pit, underground mining operation, SXEW process plant, conveying, crushing and screening equipment, site sub-station, site power distribution, access roads, heap leach facilities and associated infrastructure.

Local Resources and Infrastructure

The Cactus Mine Project is located approximately 3 miles northwest of the City of Casa Grande, Pinal County, Arizona. It is 40 road miles south-southeast of the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area and approximately 70 road miles northwest of Tucson. It is easily accessible from the Interstate 10 (I-10) freeway, which is approximately 10 mi east of the historic Sacaton Mine. The Greater Phoenix area is a major population centre (approximately 4.8M persons) with a major airport and transportation hub and well-developed infrastructure and services that support the mining industry. Location benefits include:
•    Electric power is available from Arizona Public Service’s (APS) 69 kV transmission line which passes on the South side of the site and connects to an existing substation owned by ASCU.
•    Paved road and easy access to the interstate networks for transport and two major Interstates Highways (I-10 & I-8) less than 10 miles away from the Cactus Mine Project.
•    Well established road network existing from either ADOT, Pinal County or the City of Casa Grande surrounding the property.
•    Union Pacific rail road line and rail spur adjacent to the property.
•    Five miles distance to Casa Grande and allowing the ability of the town to supply materials/consumables in addition to just labor.
•    Kinder Morgan/El Paso Natural Gas two high pressure natural gas pipelines adjacent to the property should natural gas be needed.
•    The City of Casa Grande Water Treatment Facility located within 3 miles of the Cactus Mine Project that can supply effluent water for the operation and possibly treat waste.
•    An existing Arizona Water Company potable water line is adjacent to the property.
•    Water supply is already available via buried pipeline to the property boundary as a result of prior mining and commercial operations. 
•    The cities of Casa Grande and Maricopa are nearby and, combined with Phoenix, can supply sufficient skilled labor for the Cactus Mine Project. In addition, the State of Arizona has a significant presence of copper mining in the state that can specifically provide skilled labor to the Cactus Mine Project.

Metallurgical Testwork

The metallurgical studies and testing for the Cactus Project has been ongoing since late 2019, via 45 column tests covering the resources identified in the study. Additional tests include, bottle roll testing, mineralogical analyses and other metallurgical and materials property testing. Arizona Sonoran geologists are working with metallurgical engineers to quantify the metallurgical performance from the samples obtained in a large drilling campaign. The drill core samples were safely recovered and placed in bags to be studied by geologists and subsequently shipped for testing to a well-established Mineral Processing research and development firm in Reno, Nevada (McClelland Analytical Service Laboratory (“McClelland”), an ISO 9000, ISO 17025 accredited facility). Additional testing work was completed on-site by ASCU staff and at HydroGeoSense Inc. (“HGS”) laboratories in Tucson, Arizona. The metallurgical test program completed at McClelland has been developed by and supervised by Mr. James L. Sorensen. Mr. Sorensen has also reviewed and inspected the ongoing metallurgical testing at site and information developed by HGS.

Ownership, Social License, Permitting, Taxes and Royalties

The Cactus Mine Project is 100% controlled by ASCU through its wholly owned subsidiary Cactus 110 LLC and encompasses an area of approximately 5,381 acres, as shown in FIGURE 10. The Cactus Mine Project includes exploration and mining on private land and on two Arizona State Land Department (“ASLD”) leases. There is no federal nexus for permitting the project. 

Of the 5,381 acres, 4,731.92 acres is fee simple land, three ASLD prospecting permits that the State has surface and minerals (649.12 acres), two ASLD prospecting permits that the State has minerals only with ASCU owning the surface (797.5 acres) and 18 BLM unpatented mining claims, this is for mineral only as ASCU owns the surface rights (320 acres). The BLM unpatented mining claims are outside of the known mineralization and there are currently no plans for mining at this area.

FIGURE 10: Cactus Land Ownership Map

ASCU has a well-developed community engagement plan that it has implemented through numerous public meetings and outreach. With the presence of legacy mining in the Casa Grande area and the determination of Cactus as a “brownfield” and disturbed site, the local community is supportive of the Cactus Mine Project. There is no significant opposition to the Cactus and Parks/Salyer Project.

Permitting is limited to State of Arizona-required permits including the Aquifer Protection Permit, Industrial Air permits and the Mined Land Reclamation Permit which ASCU has received from state regulators. Modifications of each will be required to address changes in the mine plan presented in this PFS.

A Mined Land Reclamation Plan was completed and submitted to the Arizona State Mine Inspector’s office in January 2023. The submitted plan does not include the Parks/Salyer mine plan and will therefore need to be modified to reflect the addition of new facilities described in this PFS.

In 2009, approximately 25 years after the Cactus Mine ceased operation, the mine was conveyed to the ASARCO Multi-State Environmental Custodial Trust as part of ASARCO bankruptcy proceedings, who helped lead a subsequent remediation program. Structures were demolished and reclaimed, and site characterization studies were conducted. Based on the results of the characterization studies and reclamation work, the ADEQ released ASCU from potential legacy liabilities, under the terms of the Prospective Purchaser Agreement (“PPA”) signed in 2019. The PPA does not cover unidentified environmental conditions or contamination. 

A corporate tax rate of 25.9% combined federal and state taxes has been applied to taxable income in the PFS with an effective tax rate of 22.3% after applicable deductions and credits. A royalty of 2.5% was applied to all sales from the Cactus deposits and the Parks/Salyer deposit. A royalty of 2.5% was applied to all sales from the Bronco Creek Exploration (“BCE”) land (west of the Parks/Salyer deposit). As cathodes will be produced onsite, no transport or refining fees have been added.

The Cactus Mine Project is subject to three royalties based on potential mining production. Tembo/Elemental Altus holds a 3.18% net smelter return (“NSR”) royalty, with an option to buy back 0.64% possible for payment of $8.9 million. BCE holds a 1.50% NSR royalty based on a portion of the Parks/Salyer Deposit, with an option to buy back 1% for payment of $0.5 million. ASLD owns a sliding net return royalty (2.00% to 8.00% and estimated at 2%) that is payable to ASLD and the State Trust on a portion of production from the Parks/Salyer Deposit, overlapping with BCE land. ASCU still needs to formalize the royalty percentages with ASLD. Formalization will be done once ACSU submits a Mineral Development Report to ASLD to convert the existing MEP to a Mineral Lease.

Exploration Upside

The Cactus Mine Project mineral resource estimate includes three deposits along a 4 km mine trend. The mineralization is present within horst blocks developed as part of regional extensional faulting. High grade mineralization was emplaced within brecciated host granite at the margin of the intruding monzonite porphyry zone and locally forms a linear NE trend called the mine trend.

Drilling has demonstrated potential for extending mineralization south of Parks/Salyer onto MainSpring as shown in FIGURE 11. At the Cactus West deposit, potential to extend resources exists towards the SW adjacent to the PFS pit and also on the NE edge. These are zones where higher-grade primary mineralization as part of the mine trend have been intercepted previously. The NE Extension zone represents a further horst block of mineralization to the NE of Cactus East that to date has been explored by wide spaced historical drilling. ASCU drilled one exploration hole into the target in 2023. The Gap Zone represents a deeper target between Parks/Salyer and Cactus West. There is potential to explore for a down dropped extension of Parks/Salyer within this zone with analogies to Cactus East.

Figure 11: Mineral Resources and Near-Term Exploration 

Next Steps

Future opportunities to build value may include a potential MainSpring starter pit, and the successful application of the Nuton technology for leaching of primary sulphides. A Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”) will define the impact of those two opportunities.

•    A PEA inclusive of an inferred MainSpring mineral resource and the application of the Nuton technologies to the primary sulphides using the same PFS assumptions is underway with M3 Engineering as lead consultant. The study is expected in the summer of 2024
•    Continued metallurgical testing
•    Infill drilling at MainSpring and around the Cactus West Pit 
•    An updated PFS to include the MainSpring opportunity is expected in 2H 2024
•    A DFS is expected to begin post MainSpring PFS, for release in 1H 2025 
•    Nuton and ASCU have agreed to working towards the Integrated Nuton PFS release by the end of 2024, unless extended mutually by both parties.
•    Nuton phase 2 metallurgy 
•    Infill drilling at MainSpring and Cactus West at depth and southwest and west of the deposit

Links from the Press Release:
Webinar: 
https://www.bigmarker.com/vid-conferences/ASCU-VID-THF 
Figures and Tables: https://arizonasonoran.com/projects/cactus-mine-project/press-release-images/
SEDAR+: https://www.sedarplus.ca
January 30, 2024: https://arizonasonoran.com/news-releases/arizona-sonoran-announces-2024-work-plan/ 
October 16, 2023: 
https://arizonasonoran.com/news-releases/arizona-sonoran-announces-updated-mineral-resource-estimate-for-the-cactus-project/  
Catus PEA, effective date of November 10, 2022: https://arizonasonoran.com/site/assets/files/6218/2022-11-10_-_ps_cactus_mre_tech_report.pdf 

Quality Assurance and Quality Control Procedures
Skyline Labs is accredited in accordance with the recognized International Standard ISO/IEC 17025:2005. Their quality management system has been certified as conforming to the requirements defined in the International Standard ISO 9001:2015. The standard operating procedure (SOP) used while processing the ASCU samples was to process samples in groups of 20. Each tray consisted of 18 samples with samples No. 1 and No. 10 repeated as duplicates. The results from each tray were analyzed and any variance in the duplicates of more than 3% would result in the entire tray being re-assayed.

The results of these analyses, including the QA/QC checks, were transmitted to a select set of individuals at ASCU and the qualified persons.

Qualified Persons

The authors of the Technical Report, each of whom is an independent qualified person within the meaning of NI 43-101 are listed below. The responsibilities of the engineering consultants are as follows:
•    Ausenco was commissioned by ASCU to manage and coordinate the work related to the PFS and the technical report.  Ausenco was also retained to complete the infrastructure design, leach pad design, and to compile the overall cost estimate and financial model.
•    AGP and Call & Nicholas (CNI) were commissioned to provide the mining methods for the underground and open pit. AGP provided designs for view berms, waste piles, and the stockpile relocation. Capital and operating costs were included in their scope.
•    Samuel Engineering was commissioned to provide the mineral processing and metallurgical testing basis and plant design. Samuel’s scope included the metallurgical test work supervision and analysis, SXEW plant, leaching process, conveyor systems, crushing and stacking system designs. Capital and operating costs for these areas were included as part of their scope.
•    Clear Creek managed the drilling programs, hydrogeologic evaluations and environmental field work for the study. 
•    ALS Geo Resources LLC was retained to provide drilling and resource modelling components of the project.
•    Minefill was involved in paste backfill evaluations and trade-off studies. However, this process is not being utilized in the current project scope.

The Qualified Person’s listed below for the technical report have reviewed and verified the contents of this press release as it relates to their responsibilities. By virtue of their education, experience and professional association membership, they are considered Qualified Person as defined by NI 43-101. 

Technical aspects of this news release have been reviewed and verified by Dan Johnson, ASCU Director of Projects, who is a qualified person as defined by National Instrument 43-101.

Qualified PersonProfessional DesignationPositionEmployer
Erin L. PattersonP.E.Director of Minerals & MetalsAusenco Engineering USA South, Inc.
Scott C. ElfenP.E.Global Lead Geotechnical ServicesAusenco Engineering Canada ULC.
R. Douglas BartlettRG, CHG,PrincipalClear Creek Associates, a subsidiary of Geo-Logic Associates
Gordon ZurowskiP.Eng.Principal Mine EngineerAGP Mining Consultants Inc.
Nat BurgioFAusIMM (CP)Principal GeologistAGP Mining Consultants Inc.
Todd CarstensenRM-SMEPrincipal Mine EngineerAGP Mining Consultants Inc.
Allan L. SchappertCPG, SME-RMPrincipalALS Geo Resources LLC
James L. SorensenFAusIMMDirectorSamuel Engineering, Inc.
Paul F. CicchiniP.E.PresidentNorth Star Geotech LLC
About Arizona Sonoran Copper Company 

(www.arizonasonoran.com | www.cactusmine.com)
ASCU’s objective is to become a mid-tier copper producer with low operating costs and to develop the Cactus and Parks/Salyer Projects that could generate robust returns for investors and provide a long term sustainable and responsible operation for the community and all stakeholders. The Company’s principal asset is a 100% interest in the Cactus Project (former ASARCO, Sacaton mine) which is situated on private land in an infrastructure-rich area of Arizona. Contiguous to the Cactus Project is the Company’s 100%-owned Parks/Salyer deposit that could allow for a phased expansion of the Cactus Mine once it becomes a producing asset. The Company is led by an executive management team and Board which have a long-standing track record of successful project delivery in North America complemented by global capital markets expertise.

For more information

Alison Dwoskin, Director, Investor Relations 
647-233-4348
adwoskin@arizonasonoran.com

George Ogilvie, President, CEO and Director 
416-723-0458
gogilvie@arizonasonoran.com

Non-IFRS Financial Performance Measures

This news release contains certain non-IFRS measures, including sustaining capital, sustaining costs,
C1 cash costs and AISC. The Company believes that these measures, together with measures determined in accordance with IFRS, provide investors with an improved ability to evaluate the underlying performance of the Company. Non-IFRS measures do not have any standardized meaning prescribed under IFRS, and therefore they may not be comparable to similar measures employed by other companies. The data is intended to provide additional information and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures of performance prepared in accordance with IFRS.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Estimates of Mineral Resources

This news release uses the terms measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources as a relative measure of the level of confidence in the resource estimate. Readers are cautioned that mineral resources are not mineral reserves and that the economic viability of resources that are not mineral reserves has not been demonstrated. The mineral resource estimate disclosed in this news release may be materially affected by geology, environmental, permitting, legal, title, socio-political, marketing or other relevant issues. The mineral resource estimate is classified in accordance with the Canadian disclosure requirements of Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s “CIM Definition Standards on Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves” incorporated by reference into NI 43-101. Under NI 43-101, estimates of inferred mineral resources may not form the basis of feasibility or pre-feasibility studies or economic studies except for preliminary economic assessments. Readers are cautioned not to assume that further work on the stated resources will lead to mineral reserves that can be mined economically.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains “forward-looking statements” and/or “forward-looking information” (collectively, “forward-looking statements”) within the meaning of applicable securities legislation. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements. Generally, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “plans”, “expect”, “is expected”, “in order to”, “is focused on” (a future event), “estimates”, “intends”, “anticipates”, “believes” or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, or the negative connotation thereof. In particular, statements regarding ASCU’s future operations, future exploration and development activities or other development plans constitute forward-looking statements. By their nature, statements referring to mineral reserves or mineral resources constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this news release include, but are not limited to statements with respect to the results (if any) of further exploration work to define and expand or upgrade mineral resources and reserves at ASCU’s properties; the anticipated exploration, drilling, development, construction and other activities of ASCU and the result of such activities; the mineral resources and mineral reserves estimates of the Cactus Project (and the assumptions underlying such estimates); the ability of exploration work (including drilling) to accurately predict mineralization; the ability of management to understand the geology and potential of the Cactus Project; the focus of the 2024 drilling program at the Cactus Project including the Parks/Salyer deposit and MainSpring property; the ability to generate additional drill targets; the ability of ASCU to complete its exploration objectives in 2024 in the timing contemplated (if at all); the completion and timing for the filing of the Technical Report; the timing and ability of ASCU to produce a preliminary economic assessment (including the MainSpring property) (if at all); the timing and ability of ASCU to produce the Nuton Case PFS (if at all); the scope of any future technical reports and studies conducted by ASCU; the ability to realize upon mineralization in a manner that is economic; the impact of bringing the MainSpring property into the mine plan; the ability and timing of ASCU to commence operations (if at all); the robust economics and opportunity represented by the Cactus Project; the ability of ASCU’s operations to be among the top 10 copper operations in Arizona and the US (if at all); the impact of the NutonTM technologies on ASCU operations and cost relating to same; the impact of the relationship with Nuton on ASCU and its operations and any other information herein that is not a historical fact.

ASCU considers its assumptions to be reasonable based on information currently available but cautions the reader that their assumptions regarding future events, many of which are beyond the control of the Company, may ultimately prove to be incorrect since they are subject to risks and uncertainties that affect ASCU, its properties and business. Such risks and uncertainties include, but not limited to, the global economic climate, developments in world commodity markets, changes in commodity prices (particularly prices of copper), risks relating to fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and other currencies relative to the US dollar, risks relating to capital market conditions and ASCU’s ability to access capital on terms acceptable to ASCU for the contemplated exploration and development at the Company’s properties, changes in exploration, development or mining plans due to exploration results and changing budget priorities of ASCU or its joint venture partners, the effects of competition in the markets in which ASCU operates, results of further exploration work, the ability to continue exploration and development at ASCU’s properties, the ability to successfully apply the NutonTM technologies in ASCU’s properties, the impact of the NutonTM technologies on ASCU operations and cost relating to same, the timing and ability for ASCU to prepare and complete the Nuton Case PFS and the costs relating to same, errors in geological modelling, changes in any of the assumptions underlying the PFS, the ability to expand operations or complete further exploration activities, the ability to obtain regulatory approvals, the impact of changes in the laws and regulations regulating mining exploration, development, closure, judicial or regulatory judgments and legal proceedings, operational and infrastructure risks and the additional risks described in ASCU’s most recently filed Annual Information Form, annual and interim management’s discussion and analysis, copies of which are available on SEDAR+ (www.sedarplus.ca) under ASCU’s issuer profile. ASCU’s anticipation of and success in managing the foregoing risks could cause actual results to differ materially from what is anticipated in such forward-looking statements.

Although management considers the assumptions contained in forward-looking statements to be reasonable based on information currently available to it based on information available at the date of preparation, those assumptions may prove to be incorrect. There can be no assurance that these forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and are urged to carefully consider the foregoing factors as well as other uncertainties and risks outlined in ASCU’s public disclosure record.

ASCU disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise, except as required by law.

Vancouver, British Columbia–(Newsfile Corp. – January 30, 2024) – Lion Copper and Gold Corp. (TSXV: LEO) (OTCQB: LCGMF) (“Lion CG” or the “Company“) is pleased to announce the positive results of a Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA“) on its Yerington Copper Project (“Project“) located in Lyon County, Nevada. The PEA envisions an open pit mining strategy followed by a heap leach operation, enhanced by the application of Rio Tinto’s Nuton technologies to process primary sulfide copper materials.

Given the multitude of advantages offered by Nuton compared to conventional sulfide processing, it serves as the Project’s preferred and foundational approach, forming the cornerstone of this PEA. The PEA was completed with funding in accordance with the agreement between the Company and Nuton LLC (“Nuton“), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto (see news release dated January 5, 2023).

A technical report on the PEA, prepared in accordance with the requirements set forth by Canadian National Instrument 43-101 (“NI 43-101“) and subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K under U.S. rules, will be filed by the Company on SEDAR+ and on the SEC website within 45 days of this news release. All currency references in this news release and the PEA are in U.S. Dollars.

Highlights:

  • Post-tax NPV7% of $356 million and IRR of 17.4%, calculated at a copper price of $3.85/lb (Table 1)
  • Utilization of cutting-edge Nuton technologies for recovering cathode copper from primary sulfide materials, negating the need for concentrator, tailings impoundment and smelter operations
  • 12-year open pit mine life encompassing operations at Yerington and MacArthur, with projected lifetime copper (Cu) production of 1.4 billion pounds, averaging 117 million pounds per year
  • Initial capital expenditure (“CAPEX”) of $413 million including all mine pre-production costs, with sustaining capital of $653 million
  • Post-tax payback period of 5.0 years
  • Average cash operating costs of $2.20/lb copper payable
  • Cumulative cashflow of $1.00 billion post-tax and $1.24 billion pre-tax on base case assumptions
  • Exceptionally low overall open pit strip ratio at 0.3:1.0 (waste:feed)
  • Synergistic co-location of processing facilities within a single legacy-affected site, servicing both the Yerington Mine and the MacArthur Mine, effectively minimizing environmental impacts in the region
  • Dewatering of the Yerington pit lake, involving the pumping of approximately 43,000 acre-feet of water at a cost of $50 million, which not only facilitates pit expansion but also unlocks water for alternative beneficial use in Mason Valley

Travis Naugle, CEO and co-chairman of Lion CG, states, “We are very pleased with the results of this Preliminary Economic Assessment, which outlines a compelling path forward for advancing the integrated Yerington Copper Project. The projected economics showcase the tremendous value that can be unlocked by adopting an innovative and sustainable approach centered around Nuton technologies for primary sulfide processing. We are dedicated to advancing the Yerington Copper Project in a positive manner that prioritizes environmental stewardship, water conservation, and benefits for tribal and local communities. The minimal footprint of our optimized strategy, with its consolidated infrastructure sited within the brownfield Yerington area, exemplifies our commitment to sustainable development that benefits all stakeholders. This PEA marks an important milestone, and we look forward to advancing the Yerington Copper Project with Nuton in a manner aligned with our ethos of creating shared value.”

Project Overview

The Yerington Copper Project PEA merges the Yerington and MacArthur projects into a cohesive, integrated mining operation. The development strategy begins with the reprocessing of legacy rock stockpiles and tailings at the Yerington Mine, followed by mining activities within the base of the legacy Yerington pit once the pit has been dewatered.

To facilitate the processing of primary sulfide and oxide materials, these materials will be mined and transported to separate lined heap leach pads to be located at the legacy Yerington Mine. The leaching process will utilize sulfuric acid delivered via rail from a reputable regional supplier.

The leaching process at the Yerington Mine benefits from the application of Nuton technologies, delivering copper recoveries from sulfide materials reaching 74%. This enhanced leaching method, powered by Nuton technologies, also beneficially eliminates the necessity for a concentrator, tailings impoundment and resource-intense smelter operations.

The resulting copper-rich leach solutions, sourced from both the sulfide and oxide Heap Leach Facilities (“HLFs“), will be collected and routed to a single solvent extraction and electrowinning (“SX-EW“) plant and culminating with the on-site production of LME Grade A cathode copper.

In a subsequent phase of operations, the MacArthur Mine will complement the continued activity at the Yerington Mine, focusing on the extraction of oxide material. The oxide material from the MacArthur Mine will be transported by conveyor to the oxide HLF to be located at the legacy-affected Yerington Mine, utilizing the existing infrastructure set up during the initial Yerington phase.

The Yerington Mine spans a legacy-affected site situated on a combination of private and public (unpatented) mining claims administered by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM“), while the MacArthur Mine is exclusively on BLM lands. As such, the Project falls under federal jurisdiction, necessitating compliance with Mine Plan of Operations and Reclamation Plan Permit Application requirements, along with other supporting studies, all subject to analysis under the National Environmental Protection Act. Furthermore, prior to commencing mining activities, other State and local permits will also be required.

A New Vision for the Yerington Copper Project

We are unwavering in our dedication to the development of the Yerington Copper Project, a commitment deeply rooted in an awareness of the environmental, water conservation, and tribal and social context within which we operate. From the inception of this venture, our guiding principle has been to minimize our footprint while maximizing the positive outcomes for the tribal and other communities living in proximity to the Yerington Copper Project. This ethos remains the bedrock of our core operating values.

The strategic alliance with Nuton LLC, a Rio Tinto Venture, as both a technology provider and earn-in partner is a testament to our Project’s aspiration to serve as a catalyst for positive change in the Mason Valley. This collaboration strengthens our resolve to realize a sustainable and responsible future.

Traditionally, the processing of primary sulfide copper resources has necessitated a resource-intensive route, involving concentrators, long-route transportation and smelter operations. This approach incurs substantial demands on water, land and power resources, often entailing intricate global supply chains and significant capital expenditure. In contrast, the heart of our Project lies in the utilization of Rio Tinto’s innovative Nuton technologies – a proprietary catalytic bio-heap leaching innovation. Nuton technologies are being evaluated to enable the unlocking of primary sulfide copper resources in a more cost-efficient, environmentally friendly manner, and affording the unique opportunity to produce copper cathode on-site for domestic consumption. The technologies also eliminate the need for permitting, constructing and managing a tailing storage facility, thereby mitigating associated costs and risks.

Beyond the environmental merits inherent in the adoption of Nuton technologies, we have undertaken comprehensive trade-off studies to enhance both the positive societal and environmental impacts of our endeavor. These studies underscore our commitment to prioritizing long-term value over short-term financial metrics. For a comprehensive understanding of our approach, please consult the complete PEA Technical Report.

We are deeply committed to transparent and continual communication with all stakeholders who stand to be affected by the Yerington Copper Project. We pledge to share project updates as they evolve, ensuring that stakeholders can form informed and fact-based opinions about our initiatives. Stakeholder engagement remains a pivotal element as we progress with the Project, and our ultimate objective is to advance this important endeavor with the full involvement of the community and stakeholders alike, while keeping the end goal in sight.

Financial Analysis

The base case copper price of $3.85/lb Cu generates a post-tax net present value (“NPV“) of $356 million at a discount rate of 7% and Internal Rate of Return (“IRR“) of 17.4%. Capital payback after tax is 5.0 years. Before taxes, the Project NPV (7%) is $482 million with an IRR of 20.3% and payback of 4.7 years.

Table 1: Yerington Copper Project Analysis

ParameterUnitsPre-TaxPost-Tax
Copper Price$US/lb3.85
Economic Indicators
Net Present Value (7%)$US M482356
IRR%20.317.4
Payback PeriodYears4.75.0
Copper Revenue less Royalties$US M5,2975,297
Total Operating Cost$US M2,9872,987
Life of Mine Capital Cost$US M1,0671,067
Net Taxes$US M243
Net Cash Flow$US M1,2441,001
Cash Costs$US/lb payable2.202.37
AISC$US/lb payable2.96
Copper – PayableMlb1,402
Mine LifeYears12
Operating Costs
$US M$/t Feed$/lb payable
Open Pit Mining1,2542.790.90
Processing1,5013.551.15
G & A670.300.10
Total2,8236.632.14
Capital Costs
Initial Capital$US M413
Sustaining Capital$US M653
Total Capital$US M1,066
$/lb payable0.76
Production Summary
Yerington AreaMacArthur AreaTotal
Heap FeedMtons246.1204.2450.4
Copper Grade%0.240.180.21
WasteMtons78.258.6136.8
Strip RatioW:F0.320.290.30
Copper Pounds (millions)In situ1,298.8831.52,130.3
Recovered861.2547.41,408.6

The Project generates cumulative cashflow of $1.00 billion on a post-tax basis and $1.24 billion pre-tax with the base copper price of $3.85/lb.

Table 2 below shows the sensitivity of the base case Project economics to the copper price on a pre-tax and post-tax basis.

Table 2: Yerington Copper Project – Sensitivity to Copper Price

Copper Price $US/lb$3.08$3.47$3.85$4.24$4.62$5.00
Variance-20%-10%Base10%20%30%
Pre-tax
NPV @7% $M-$89.8$201$482$771$1,051$1,332
IRR3.7%13.2%20.3%26.5%31.8%36.7%
Post-tax
NPV @7% $M-$129$122$356$589$812$1,035
IRR2.1%11.0%17.4%22.9%27.6%32.0%

The PEA is preliminary in nature, includes inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves, and there is no certainty that the PEA will be realized. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.

Capital and Operating Costs

The capital and operating cost estimates for the Project are summarized below. Initial CAPEX is $413 million and Sustaining CAPEX over the life of the mine is an additional $653 million. All in Sustaining Cost (“AISC“) is $2.87/lb Cu.

Table 3: Yerington Copper Project Capital Cost Estimate

AreaInitial Capital
(M$)
Sustaining Capital
(M$)
Total Capital
(M$)
Open Pit Mining74.593.7168.2
Processing72.7184.3257.0
Infrastructure118.1178.8296.8
Dewatering45.04.849.7
Environmental7.042.549.5
Indirects35.551.086.5
Contingency60.898.1158.8
Total413.4653.11,066.5

Table 4: Yerington Copper Project Operating Costs – Life of Mine

AreaLife of Mine
($/t moved)
Life of Mine
($/t process feed)
Life of Mine
($/lb copper payable)
Open Pit Mining2.142.790.90
Processing3.551.15
G&A0.300.10
Total Operating Cost6.632.14

Mining

The Mineral Resource for the Project includes the Yerington Deposit, W-3 Stockpile, Vat Leach Tailings (“VLT“) and the MacArthur Deposit. The mine schedule for open pit mining totals 450 Mtons of heap leach feed grading 0.21% copper over a processing life of just over 12 years. The sulfide tonnage of 148.5 Mtons grading 0.29% TCu will be crushed and agglomerated before placement on the heap leach pad, while the remaining 301.9 Mtons at 0.18% TCu will be placed in a separate oxide HLF. Waste rock from open pit operations totals 136.8 Mtons and will be placed into waste storage facilities adjacent to the open pits. The overall open pit strip ratio is very low compared to other mining operations, at 0.3:1.0 (waste:feed).

Metallurgy & Processing

Extensive hydrometallurgical testing has examined both the Yerington and MacArthur materials. This valuation encompasses full-scale production data from Arimetco Inc’s legacy heap leach operations and multiple iterations of laboratory testing focused on the MacArthur material. The PEA Technical Report provides a detailed account of these operations and testing outcomes.

In early 2022, Nuton embarked on an analysis of the Yerington and MacArthur rock types. The initial emphasis was placed on assessing the MacArthur and Yerington legacy residuals, as well as fresh material, to ascertain the compatibility of Nuton technologies for copper recovery from primary copper sulfide minerals, including chalcopyrite. It has become evident that the technologies are well-suited for processing Yerington primary sulfide rock types, demonstrating recoveries that reach a projected copper recovery rate of over 74%. The metallurgical recovery estimates for the Project are provided in the table below, recognizing that these preliminary figures are subject to refinement as additional data becomes available. The Nuton test work remains ongoing and the quality is expected to improve, leveraging preliminary data and optimization of operational parameters. Further testing of Nuton technologies is slated to confirm metallurgical performance through replicate trials, with completion anticipated in 2024.

Table 5: Yerington – MacArthur Recovery Projections by Processing Method

DepositHeap Material
Type
Pit PhaseTCu
Recovery
Notes:
MacArthurOxideMacArthur82%Sized to 6″ minus
Gallagher54%Sized to 6″ minus
North Area53%Sized to 6″ minus
YeringtonOxideYerington70%ROM
W368%ROM
VLT75%ROM
Sulfide-NutonYerington74%Tertiary Crushed Agglomerated Conveyor Stacked: Nuton Process

Two separate heap leach facilities will be utilized for the generation of copper solutions for the SX-EW facility. In one processing stream, the Nuton process will harness the leaching of sulfide feed extracted from the Yerington Mine, with the Nuton facility attaining a peak feed rate of 17 million short tons per annum (Mtpa) through the crushing and agglomeration system.

Simultaneously, the other processing stream will employ conventional oxide copper leaching technology, encompassing a blend of run-of-mine (“ROM“) material and appropriately-sized material. Oxide materials sourced from the Yerington pit, alongside those from the W-3 and VLT stockpiles, will be consolidated within a single heap leach pad, alongside the MacArthur Mine material. Meanwhile, the oxide material from the MacArthur Mine is designed to undergo sizing on-site before being conveyed, agglomerated and stacked at the oxide HLF to be located at the Yerington Mine. The MacArthur material sizing facility is designed to have a peak capacity of 25 Mtpa.

Infrastructure

The core infrastructure elements encompass HLFs designed for both sulfide and oxide material, Waste Rock Storage Facilities, an overland conveying system for transporting oxide feed from the MacArthur Mine to the oxide HLF at the Yerington Mine, SX-EW facility, ponds and a dedicated twelve-mile rail spur to the Yerington Mine. The placement of new infrastructure has been prioritized to be located within the legacy-affected Yerington Mine area to minimize the creation of fresh disturbance zones.

An important component of the infrastructure strategy is the dewatering of the Yerington pit lake, required to enable the expansion of mining activities and unlock the valuable utility of water in Mason Valley. This pit lake, containing approximately 43,000 acre-feet of clean water, necessitates a highly-engineered pumping operation for its complete emptying. Over a two-year timeline and at a cost of over $50 million, the water may be made available to offset existing irrigation demands and recharge the groundwater aquifer in the Mason Valley. Notably, comprehensive water quality assessments spanning more than three decades have demonstrated a steady improvement in the Yerington pit lake’s water quality, which presently aligns with or closely approaches drinking water standards, rendering it suitable for a multitude of beneficial applications. By way of scale, the volume of water planned to be provided from the pit dewatering and directed toward aquifer recharge surpasses the Yerington Copper Project’s projected annual water consumption requirements by more than tenfold. During mining operations, maintenance dewatering is expected in order to maintain a dry pit, further serving mining and mineral processing needs.

Mineral Resource Estimate

The Mineral Resources for the Yerington Copper Project are composed of the Yerington Deposit, W-3 Stockpile, Vat Leach Tailings and the MacArthur Deposit.

The Yerington Copper Project Mineral Resource estimate described below is classified according to the CIM Definition Standards for Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves (CIM, 2014).

Yerington Deposit – The Mineral Resource estimate utilizes validated historic drill hole data generated by Anaconda Copper Mining Company (“Anaconda“) and recent drilling results by the Company in 2011, 2017 and 2022. The updated Mineral Resources for the Yerington Deposit are: Measured Resources of 62.9 Mtons at 0.30% TCu; Indicated Resources of 94.7 Mtons at 0.27% TCu; and Inferred Resources of 113.2 Mtons at 0.22% TCu (Table 6).

Table 6: 2023 Yerington Deposit Mineral Resource estimate

MaterialCutoff Grade
(TCu%)
TonsGrade
(TCu%)
Contained Copper
(lbs)
Measured Oxide0.03820,230,0000.2599,367,000
Measured Sulfide0.12642,671,0000.32274,578,000
Measured Total62,901,0000.30373,945,000
Indicated Oxide0.03813,749,0000.2260,166,000
Indicated Sulfide0.12680,960,0000.28457,921,000
Indicated Total94,709,0000.27518,087,000
Measured + Indicated Oxide0.03833,979,0000.23159,533,000
Measured + Indicated Sulfide0.126123,631,0000.30732,499,000
Measured + Indicated Total157,610,0000.28892,032,000
Inferred Oxide0.03833,347,0000.18122,221,000
Inferred Sulfide0.12679,881,0000.24385,938,000
Inferred Total113,229,0000.22508,159,000

 
Notes:

  1. Effective date for this Mineral Resource estimate is May 1, 2023.
  2. The 2023 Mineral Resource estimate uses a variable break-even economic cut-off grade of 0.038% TCu and 0.126% TCu based on assumptions of a net copper price of $4.08/lb (after processing, transportation and royalty charges), 70% recovery in oxide material, 75% recovery in sulfide material.
  3. Mineral Resources are not Mineral Reserves and do not demonstrate economic viability.
  4. Mineral Resource estimate reported from within resource pit shell.
  5. There is no certainty that all or any part of the Mineral Resource estimate will be converted into Mineral Reserves.
  6. All figures are rounded to reflect the relative accuracy of the estimates and totals may not add correctly.
     

W-3 Stockpile – W-3 is a rock disposal stockpile that lies north-northwest of the current Yerington pit and was derived from subgrade copper oxide material mined during historical Anaconda mining operations. The Inferred W-3 Stockpile Mineral Resource is 14.1 million tons at 0.11% TCu (Table 7).

Table 7: 2023 W-3 Stockpile Mineral Resource Statement

ClassCutoff Grade (TCu%)TonsGrade (TCu%)Contained Copper ( lbs)
Inferred Oxide>= 0.0414,100,0000.1130,571,000

 
Notes:

  1. Effective date for this W-3 Stockpile Mineral Resource estimate is July 31, 2023.
  2. The 2023 Mineral Resource estimate uses a variable break-even economic cut-off grade of 0.040 % TCu based on assumptions of a net copper price of $4.08/lb (after processing, transportation, and royalty charges), and 70% recovery in oxide material.
  3. Mineral Resource are not Mineral Reserves and do not demonstrate economic viability.
  4. Mineral Resource estimate reported from within resource pit shell.
  5. There is no certainty that all or any part of the Mineral Resource estimate will be converted into Mineral Reserves.
  6. All figures are rounded to reflect the relative accuracy of the estimates and totals may not add correctly.
     

Vat-Leached Tailings – Vat-Leached Tailings, in the form of oxide tailings, are the leached products of Anaconda’s vat leach copper extraction. The oxide tailings, located north of the Process Areas, contain the crushed rock at the base of the leach vats that remained following the extraction of copper in the vat-leaching process. The Inferred VLT Mineral Resource is 33.2 million tons at 0.09% TCu (Table 8).

Table 8: 2023 VLT Mineral Resource Statement

ClassCutoff Grade (TCu%)TonsGrade (TCu%)Contained Copper (lbs)
Inferred Oxide>= 0.0433,160,0000.0962,622,000

 
Notes:

  1. Effective date for this VLT Mineral Resource estimate is July 31, 2023.
  2. The 2023 Mineral Resource estimate uses a variable break-even economic cut-off grade of 0.040 % TCu based on assumptions of a net copper price of $4.08/lb (after processing, transportation and royalty charges), and 70% recovery in oxide material.
  3. Mineral Resource are not Mineral Reserves and do not demonstrate economic viability.
  4. Mineral Resource estimate reported from within resource pit shell.
  5. There is no certainty that all or any part of the Mineral Resource estimate will be converted into Mineral Reserves.
    All figures are rounded to reflect the relative accuracy of the estimates and totals may not add correctly.
     

MacArthur Deposit – The Mineral Resource estimate of the MacArthur Deposit encompasses three principal domains: Main MacArthur, Gallagher and North Ridge. An overview of Section 14 from the Technical Report, titled “MacArthur Copper Project, Mason Valley, Nevada, USA, Mineral Resource Estimate,” is presented in the following tables. There have been no subsequent updates to the MacArthur Mineral Resource following the publication of the Technical Report on February 25, 2022.

The Mineral Resource estimate for the MacArthur Deposit are: Measured Resources of 116.7 Mtons at 0.18% TCu; Indicated Resources of 183.7 Mtons at 0.158% TCu; and Inferred Resources of 156.5 Mtons at 0.151% TCu.

Table 9: MacArthur Deposit – Summary of Mineral Resource

ClassificationKtonsGrade (Total Cu%)Contained Copper
Pounds x 1000
Measured116,6660.180420,929
Indicated183,6650.158579,479
Measured + Indicated300,3310.1671,000,408
Inferred156,4500.151471,714

 
Notes:

  1. The effective date of the MacArthur Mineral Resource estimate is February 25, 2022.
  2. Cutoff grade: 0.06% TCu for Leach Cap, Oxide & Transition
  3. Cutoff grade for Sulfide: 0.06% TCu for MacArthur & North Ridge, 0.08% TCu for Gallagher.
  4. Total resource shell tonnage = 628,831 ktons
     

Table 10: Mineral Resource by Domain

DomainTotal Copper Cutoff, %MEASUREDINDICATEDMEASURED & INDICATED
Ktons & Grade Above CutoffKtons & Grade Above CutoffKtons & Grade Above Cutoff
KtonsTCu, %Contained Cu Pounds x 1000KtonsTCu, %Contained Cu Pounds x 1000KtonsTCu, %Contained Cu Pounds x 1000
MacArthur0.0682,9830.184305,30377,1710.151233,446160,1540.168538,749
North Ridge0.0625,1490.17688,50778,3050.166259,558103,4540.168348,065
Gallagher0.06/0.088,5340.15927,11928,1890.15386,47536,7230.155113,594
Total116,6660.180420,929183,6650.158579,479300,3310.1671,000,408
Domain
Total Copper Cutoff, %
INFERRED   
Ktons & Grade Above Cutoff   
KtonsTCu, %Contained Cu Pounds x 1000   
MacArthur0.0630,8150.15897,490   
North Ridge0.0662,5930.154192,187   
Gallagher0.06/0.0863,0420.144182,037   
Total156,4500.151471,714   

Due to the uncertainty that may be attached to Inferred Mineral Resources, it cannot be assumed that all or any part of an Inferred Mineral Resource will be upgraded to an Indicated or Measured Mineral Resource as a result of continued exploration. Confidence in the estimate is insufficient to allow the meaningful application of technical and economic parameters or to enable an evaluation of economic viability worthy of public disclosure. Inferred Mineral Resources must be excluded from estimates forming the basis of feasibility or other economic studies.

Qualified Persons

The Qualified Persons (QPs), as that term is defined in NI 43-101, responsible for the preparation of the PEA Technical Report, include:

  • Gordon Zurowski, P.Eng., Principal Mine Engineer (AGP Mining Consultants Inc.)
  • Tim Maunula, P.Geo, Principal Resource Geologist (T. Maunula & Associates Consulting Inc.) – Yerington Mineral Resource estimate
  • Herb Welhener, MMSA-QPM, Vice President (Independent Mining Consultants, Inc.) – MacArthur Mineral Resource estimate
  • Adrien Butler, P.E., Senior Civil Engineer (NewFields)
  • Jeff Woods, QP, Principal Process Engineer (Woods Process Services, LLC)

The respective QPs have reviewed and accept the data handling protocols followed for the historical drill hole and assay data, along with the QA/QC analysis of drilling results by standards, blanks and duplicate assays, and the incorporation of this data into the Yerington and MacArthur Mineral Resource estimates presented in the Technical Report.

The base case copper price assumption of $3.85/lb Cu was selected by the QPs based on a review of independent market analyst consensus pricing during the time the economic analysis was prepared. This pricing reflects the mid-range of expected real long-term copper pricing to provide a representative and reasonable base case scenario.

Each QP has reviewed and verified the content of this news release.

Non-IFRS Financial Measures

The Company has included certain non-IFRS financial measures in this news release, such as Initial Capital Cost, Cash Operating Costs, Total Cash Cost, All-In Sustaining Cost, Expansion Capital, Capital Intensity, and Effective Cash Tax Rate which are not measures recognized under IFRS and do not have a standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS. As a result, these measures may not be comparable to similar measures reported by other corporations. Each of these measures used are intended to provide additional information to the user and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures prepared in accordance with IFRS.

Non-IFRS financial measures used in this news release and common to the copper mining industry are defined below.

Total Cash Costs and Total Cash Costs per Pound – Total Cash Costs are reflective of the cost of production. Total Cash Costs reported in the PEA include mining costs, processing & water treatment costs, general and administrative costs of the mine, off-site costs, refining costs, transportation costs and royalties. Total Cash Costs per Pound is calculated as Total Cash Costs divided by payable copper pounds.

Total Operating Costs and Total Operating Costs per Pound – Total Operating Costs are reflective of the cost of mine operations. Total Operating Costs reported in the PEA include mining costs, processing & water treatment costs, and general and administrative costs of the mine. Total Operating Cost per Pound is calculated as Total Operating Costs divided by payable copper pounds.

All-in Sustaining Costs (“AISC”) and AISC per Pound – AISC is reflective of all of the expenditures that are required to produce a pound of copper from operations. AISC reported in the PEA includes total cash costs, sustaining capital, expansion capital and closure costs, but excludes corporate general and administrative costs and salvage. AISC per Pound is calculated as AISC divided by payable copper pounds.

About Lion CG (www.lioncg.comnuton.tech/partnerships)

Lion Copper and Gold Corp. is a Canadian-based company advancing its flagship copper assets at Yerington, Nevada through an Option to Earn-in Agreement with Nuton LLC, a Rio Tinto Venture.

About Nuton LLC (nuton.tech)

Nuton is an innovative venture that aims to help grow Rio Tinto’s copper business. At the core of Nuton is a portfolio of proprietary copper leaching related technologies and capability – a product of almost 30 years of research and development. Nuton offers the potential to economically unlock copper from primary sulfide resources through leaching, achieving market-leading recovery rates, contributing to an increase in copper production from copper-bearing waste and tailings, and achieving higher copper recoveries on oxide and transitional material. One of the key differentiators of Nuton is the ambition to produce the world’s lowest footprint copper while having at least one Positive Impact at each of our deployment sites, across our five pillars: water, energy, land, materials and society.

NutonTM Technologies

The NutonTM technologies are proprietary Rio Tinto-developed copper heap leach related processing and modelling technologies, capability and intellectual property.
 

On behalf of the Board of Directors,
Stephen Goodman
President

For more information please contact:
Email: info@lioncg.com

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

The technical information in this news release has been reviewed and approved by C. Travis Naugle, QP MMSA, CEO of Lion Copper and Gold Corp. and a qualified person as defined in NI 43-101.

Certain information in this news release constitutes forward-looking statements under applicable securities laws. Any statements that are contained in this news release that are not statements of historical fact may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are often identified by terms such as “may”, “expect”, or the negative of these terms and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements in this news release include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to resource estimates, estimate of future production, costs of production and other assumptions used in a preliminary economic assessment, future exploration or production activities and anticipated results. Forward-looking statements necessarily involve known and unknown risks, including, without limitation, risks associated with extraction based on resource estimates including inferred resources, grades and recoveries not being realized; delays or failures in obtaining necessary permitting or other project approvals, delays in the development of projects, results of additional exploration activity; general economic conditions; adverse industry events; marketing costs; loss of markets; future legislative and regulatory developments; inability to access sufficient capital from internal and external sources, and/or inability to access sufficient capital on favorable terms; the ability of Lion CG to implement its business strategies; competition; currency and interest rate fluctuations, inflation and other risks. These statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those suggested by the forward-looking statements. Shareholders and prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking information. By its nature, forward-looking information involves numerous assumptions, inherent risks and uncertainties, both general and specific, that contribute to the possibility that the predictions, forecasts, projections and various future events will not occur. The Company undertakes no obligation to update publicly or otherwise revise any forward-looking information whether as a result of new information, future events or other such factors which affect this information, except as required by law.

Casa Grande, AZ and Toronto, ON, January 30, 2024 – Arizona Sonoran Copper Company Inc. (TSX:ASCU | OTCQX:ASCUF) (“ASCU” or the “Company”) today announces its 2024 work plan and 2023 achievements. The ensuing year’s activities relate to the continued advancement of the Cactus Property, through Feasibility studies while concurrently completing Nuton-related work programs. 

2023 Achievements 

  • c. $74 million CAD Financing
    • C$30M (February) via bought deal financing 
    • US$33M (December) via initial option to JV payment (PR – Dec 14, 2023)
  • Option to JV with Nuton LLC, a Rio Tinto Venture
    • Total option exercise payment to be determined based on the standalone ASCU Pre-Feasibility Study (“PFS”) net present value (“NPV”)
  • Mineral Resources 
    • Increased the total M&I mineral resources by 221%
    • Increased the leachable M&I mineral resources by 316%  
  • Strengthened the Owner/Operator Team
    • Appointed Bernie Loyer as SVP Projects, Steve Dixon, Senior Metallurgist, Chris White, Chief Mine Geologist, and Victor Moraila, Chief Mine Engineer and Alan Hernandez, Senior Project Engineer
  • Drilling – Completed 150,561 ft (45,891 m) of drilling, including infill and exploration. Discovered MainSpring near surface mineralization south of Parks/Salyer and confirmed mineralization in the Gap Zone and NE Extension
  • Land – purchased an option to acquire the MainSpring Property (543 acres) and began its rezoning from Residential to Industrial with the City of Casa Grande.  
  • Metallurgy – completed ASCU PFS metallurgy
    • Ongoing DFS metallurgy and Nuton metallurgical testing
  • Permitting – successfully completed all major permits related to the Cactus PEA. Modified water rights through ADWR to include MainSpring and ASLD Lands

2024 ASCU Work Plan Highlights 

  • Technical Studies – Complete ASCU’s Standalone PFS and initiate the Amended PFS which will incorporate Mainspring. The Amended PFS will be compared to the subsequent Nuton case Integrated PFS. Assuming the economics meet the required thresholds, and Nuton chooses to exercise its option, it will make the option payment based on a 0.65x multiple of the NPV included in the Amended PFS including Mainspring thereby obtaining up to 40% of the project.
    • Standalone ASCU PFS expected in 1Q24
    • Amended PFS including Mainspring, estimated for completion by October 2024
    • Standalone DFS estimated completion June 2025  
  • Drilling Programs – Infill to inferred and indicated programs totaling 180,000 ft (54,860 m) at MainSpring and Cactus West required for future technical studies. Drilling will target oxide, enriched and primary mineralization
  • Metallurgy – Begin evaluating MainSpring and Parks/Salyer heap leach amenability in 20 ft (6m) columns in a commercial laboratory
  • Permitting – will include amending permits (SWPP, Aquifer Protection Permit and Industrial Air) related to the Cactus PFS 

2024 Nuton Work Plan Highlights

  • Drilling of Mainspring and Cactus West (as above):
    • Infill to indicated programs to assess the primary sulfide potential along with core drilling to support the Phase 2 Nuton metallurgical test program 
  • Technical Studies:
    • Integrated Nuton PEA: A Preliminary Economic Assessment incorporating the Nuton technology as applied to the Cactus/Parks Salyer and MainSpring expected in H2 2024
    • Integrated Nuton PFS: The Parties agree to work towards the Integrated Nuton PFS release by the end of 2024, unless extended mutually by the Parties. 
  • Metallurgy:
    • Primary material from both MainSpring and Cactus West, will be tested in small columns to evaluate optimum Nuton operating conditions for the material
    • Full height, 30 feet (10m) tall column will be operated to confirm scale-up considerations under Nuton leach conditions

George Ogilvie, ASCU President and CEO commented, “I am extremely proud of the team’s efforts in 2023. Within a tough overall market, we raised C$30 million at the beginning of the year funding a transformational year in terms of becoming one of the lowest risk advanced exploration copper companies. Our strengthened owner-operator team permitted our Cactus project, significantly grew the mineral resources to become a top tier project in a tier one location, advanced our metallurgical work and continued to demonstrate the support from the local community for the reactivation of the Cactus Mine, for which we are thankful. 

He continued, “Most significant to the development of Cactus, is our exciting new partnership with Nuton and Rio Tinto, bringing long-term accretive value to the ASCU shareholders. Having signed the Option to Joint Venture Agreement with Nuton late last year, we find ourselves funded to deliver advanced technical studies demonstrating the integration of an exciting new technology and potentially unlocking a previously stranded and untreatable mineral resource. We are thrilled to be working with a company that values our environmental and social stewardship and we believe the strengthening of our business relationship will be a win-win-win for ASCU shareholders, the Cactus Project and for Nuton.”

Drilling 
MainSpring drilling will focus on completing an initial inferred resource at 500 ft (152 m) spacing with three diamond core drills, and then in-filling at 250 ft (76 m) spacing to begin an indicated resource in the area defined as most likely to be accessible with an open pit, using a combination of diamond core drilling and reverse circulation drilling. The initial inferred resource will build off of the 11 diamond core holes that were completed late last year and from 22 historic diamond core and reverse circulation drill holes that were obtained by ASCU from the previous option holder. 
Drilling at Cactus West will largely focus on completing an indicated resource at 500 ft (152 m) spacing on the primary mineralization below the enriched material. The enriched material at Cactus West has largely already been drilled to the indicated level with some measured drilling. The primary drilling program at Cactus West will also help fill in gaps in the enriched indicated resource at Cactus West. 

Metallurgy 
Metallurgical testing programs for the DFS and Nuton are in progress, testing leach times, various irrigations and maximum recovery efficiencies at minimal costs. The metallurgical testing will cover material from MainSpring, Parks/Slayer, Cactus West and the Stockpile. All metallurgical tests will be completed by commercial metallurgical laboratories. The Stockpile will be evaluated for options to reduce acid consumption, and the former flotation tails will be evaluated for copper extraction treatment options.

Permitting 
All major permitting based on the Cactus PEA is complete. This includes water rights and access to water, Aquifer Protection Permit, Industrial Air Permit, Mined Land Reclamation and SWPPP. In 2024, amendments to these permits will begin, reflecting any changes made to the PFS mining plan. In addition, alternative sources of water that do not involve the pumping of groundwater will be reviewed thus minimizing ASCU’s use of the local aquifer as part of the company’s ESG program.

Links from the Press Release: 
December 14, 2023: https://arizonasonoran.com/news-releases/arizona-sonoran-and-nuton-llc-announce-option-to-joint-venture-on-cactus-project-in-arizona/ 

Neither the TSX nor the regulating authority has approved or disproved the information contained in this press release. 

About Arizona Sonoran Copper Company (www.arizonasonoran.com | www.cactusmine.com)
ASCU’s objective is to become a mid-tier copper producer with low operating costs and to develop the Cactus and Parks/Salyer Projects that could generate robust returns for investors and provide a long term sustainable and responsible operation for the community and all stakeholders. The Company’s principal asset is a 100% interest in the Cactus Project (former ASARCO, Sacaton mine) which is situated on private land in an infrastructure-rich area of Arizona. Contiguous to the Cactus Project is the Company’s 100%-owned Parks/Salyer deposit that could allow for a phased expansion of the Cactus Mine once it becomes a producing asset. The Company is led by an executive management team and Board which have a long-standing track record of successful project delivery in North America complemented by global capital markets expertise.

For more information
Alison Dwoskin, Director, Investor Relations 
647-233-4348
adwoskin@arizonasonoran.com

George Ogilvie, President, CEO and Director 
416-723-0458
gogilvie@arizonasonoran.com
    
Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” and/or “forward-looking information” (collectively, “forward-looking statements”) within the meaning of applicable securities legislation. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements. Generally, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “plans”, “expect”, “is expected”, “in order to”, “is focused on” (a future event), “estimates”, “intends”, “anticipates”, “believes” or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, or the negative connotation thereof. In particular, statements regarding ASCU’s future operations, future exploration and development activities or other development plans constitute forward-looking statements. By their nature, statements referring to mineral reserves or mineral resources constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this press release include. These forward-looking statements are based on ASCU’s current beliefs as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to it and involve inherent risks and uncertainties, both general and specific.

Risks exist that forward-looking statements will not be achieved due to a number of factors including, but not limited to, developments in world commodity markets, changes in commodity prices (particularly prices of copper), risks relating to fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and other currencies relative to the US dollar, changes in exploration, development or mining plans due to exploration results and changing budget priorities of ASCU or its joint venture partners, the effects of competition in the markets in which ASCU operates, the impact of the NutonTM technologies on ASCU operations and cost relating to same, the timing and ability for ASCU to prepare and complete the Integrated Nuton Case PFS and the costs relating to same, the impact of changes in the laws and regulations regulating mining exploration, development, closure, judicial or regulatory judgments and legal proceedings, operational and infrastructure risks and the additional risks described in ASCU’s most recently filed Annual Information Form, annual and interim MD&A, copies of which are available on SEDAR+ (www.sedarplus.ca) under ASCU’s issuer profile. ASCU’s anticipation of and success in managing the foregoing risks could cause actual results to differ materially from what is anticipated in such forward-looking statements. 

Although management considers the assumptions contained in forward-looking statements to be reasonable based on information currently available to it, those assumptions may prove to be incorrect. When making decisions with respect to ASCU, investors and others should not place undue reliance on these statements and should carefully consider the foregoing factors and other uncertainties and potential events. Unless required by applicable securities law, ASCU does not undertake to update any forward-looking statement that is made herein.

VANCOUVER, CANADA (January 15, 2024) – Aldebaran Resources Inc. (“Aldebaran” or the”Company“) (TSX-V: ALDE, OTCQX: ADBRF) is pleased to announce that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Nuton LLC, a Rio Tinto Venture (“Nuton”) to evaluate the use of Nuton’s proprietary primary sulphide leaching technologies on the Altar copper-gold project, located in San Juan, Argentina.

Under the terms of the agreement, Aldebaran will deliver samples representing various styles of mineralization from the Altar project to Nuton. Nuton will then complete detailed mineralogical analyses of each sample before placing the material into columns. Samples will be placed in columns with a height of 1 m, each under different controlled Nuton operating conditions. It is expected that the full results will be available approximately one year after the columns are loaded. Test work is currently anticipated to commence in H1 2024.

As part of the agreement, Aldebaran has granted exclusivity to Nuton in the area of novel, patented or trade secret leaching technologies, for a period of one year starting on the agreement date of January 9, 2024. The parties will share the cost of the test program with Aldebaran covering the cost of preparation and shipping of the samples to Nuton, and Nuton paying for the costs of metallurgical test work.

John E. Black, Chief Executive Officer of Aldebaran, commented: “We’re happy to collaborate with Nuton to evaluate the potential use of their sulphide leaching technology at the Altar project. While sulphide leaching isn’t necessary to move the Altar project forward, it could positively impact the project’s economics, if successful.”

Adam Burley, Chief Executive Officer of Nuton, commented “We are pleased to announce this collaboration agreement with Aldebaran. Nuton has a wide range of potential use cases. At Altar we are encouraged by the potential of Nuton to unlock copper resources in a project with substantial scale potential and in a way that is more environmentally efficient than conventional processes”

ON BEHALF OF THE ALDEBARAN BOARD

John Black

John Black
Chief Executive Officer and Director

Please click here and subscribe to receive future news releases: https://aldebaranresources.com/contact/subscribe/

For further information, please consult our website at www.aldebaranresources.com or contact:

Ben Cherrington
Manager, Investor Relations
Phone: +1 347 394-2728 or +44 7538 244 208
Email: ben.cherrington@aldebaranresources.com

About Nuton

Nuton is an innovative venture that aims to help grow Rio Tinto’s copper business. At the core of Nuton is a portfolio of proprietary copper leach related technologies and capability – a product of almost 30 years of research and development. Nuton offers the potential to economically unlock copper from primary sulfide resources worldwide through leaching, achieving market-leading recovery rates, contributing to an increase in copper production from copper bearing waste and tailings, and achieving higher copper recoveries on oxide and transitional material. One of the key differentiators of Nuton is the potential to produce the world’s lowest impact copper while having at least one Net Positive impact at each of our deployment sites, across our five pillars: water, energy, land, materials and society.

About Aldebaran Resources Inc. 

Aldebaran is a mineral exploration company that was spun out of Regulus Resources Inc. in 2018 and has the same core management team. Aldebaran holds a 60% interest in the Altar copper-gold project in San Juan Province, Argentina and can earn an additional 20% interest in the project by completing a further US$25 million in expenditures at Altar over the next three years. The Altar project hosts multiple porphyry copper-gold deposits with potential for additional discoveries. Altar forms part of a cluster of world-class porphyry copper deposits which includes Los Pelambres (Antofagasta Minerals), El Pachón (Glencore), and Los Azules (McEwen Copper). In March 2021 the Company announced an updated mineral resource estimate for Altar, prepared by Independent Mining Consultants Inc. and based on the drilling completed up to and including 2020 (independent technical report prepared by Independent Mining Consultants Inc., Tucson, Arizona, titled “Technical Report, Estimated Mineral Resources, Altar Project, San Juan Province, Argentina“, dated March 22, 2021 – see news release dated March 22, 2021).

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements regarding Aldebaran, including management’s assessment of future-plans and operations, may constitute forward-looking statements under applicable securities laws and necessarily involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, most of which are beyond Aldebaran’s control. Often, but not always, forward-looking statements or information can be identified by the use of words such as “plans”, “expects” or “does not expect”, “is expected”, “budget”, “scheduled”, “estimates”, “forecasts”, “intends”, “anticipates” or “does not anticipate” or “believes” or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, “might” or “will” be taken, occur or be achieved.

Specifically, and without limitation, all statements included in this press release that address activities, events or developments that Aldebaran expects or anticipates will or may occur in the future, including the proposed exploration  and development of the Altar project described herein, and management’s assessment of future plans and operations and statements with respect to the completion of the anticipated exploration and development programs, may constitute forward-looking statements under applicable securities laws and necessarily involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, most of which are beyond Aldebaran’s control. These risks may cause actual financial and operating results, performance, levels of activity and achievements to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, such forward-looking statements. Although Aldebaran believes that the expectations represented in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, there can be no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. The forward-looking statements contained in this press release are made as of the date hereof and Aldebaran does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements or information, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, unless so required by applicable securities law. 

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

US$33 million in non-dilutive financing to ASCU
Global Mining and Innovation Industry partner validates scalability of Cactus Project and Nuton’s confidence in enhancing project economics

Casa Grande, AZ and Toronto, ON, December 14, 2023 – Arizona Sonoran Copper Company Inc. (TSX:ASCU | OTCQX:ASCUF) 
(“ASCU” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce today that it has entered into an option to joint venture agreement with Nuton LLC (“Nuton”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto, to establish a strategic alliance for deployment of the Nuton technologies at its Cactus Mine and the Parks/Salyer Project  (collectively, the “Cactus Project”), in Arizona, USA. All dollar figures herein are in United States dollars unless otherwise indicated.

Management will host an interactive webinar on Friday, December 15 at 9 am ET. Please register with https://www.bigmarker.com/vid-conferences/ASCU-TownHallForum to join.

Transaction Highlights
Creating a Straightforward Mechanism for Significant Project Funding
•    Endorses the Cactus Project through up to US$33 million in non-dilutive financing
•    Creates a straightforward mechanism for significant project funding, designed to minimize ASCU’s future share of equity contributions to capital costs
•    Commitment from Nuton to support the creation of a funding strategy for ASCU, which may include the provision of a completion guarantee for the Cactus Project or a performance guarantee related to the Nuton technologies 
•    Potential to improve per share returns to ASCU shareholders 

Reduction of Execution Risks 
•    Establishes a framework for a joint-venture partnership with industry-leading technical and innovation leader to deliver value-enhancing project economics 
•    Potential to significantly increase attributable copper production per share 
•    Defines near-term project advancement strategy with the goal of delivering an Integrated Nuton Case PFS (defined below) by December 31, 2024
•    Preserves long-term optionality for ASCU and outlines a clear path towards environmentally- friendly copper production in the USA, with a focus on Nuton’s positive impact pillars: water, energy, land, materials, and society

George Ogilvie, President and CEO of ASCU commented, “We are delighted to announce this strategic joint venture transaction with Nuton. We welcome the expertise and financial support as we expand testing of Nuton’s heap leaching technologies, while concurrently advancing ASCU’s projects. Nuton’s column test results have demonstrated continued improvements in extraction rates from both the primary and enriched mineral resources, resulting in potentially more efficient operations. We look forward to advancing into Phase 2 testing, which includes an expanded understanding of the Nuton technologies’ economic benefits within a fully-integrated pre-feasibility study, anticipated by the end of 2024.”

Mr. Ogilvie continued, “The proposed heap leach and SXEW flowsheet utilizing Nuton is intended to build upon the strength of our standalone base case, utilizing the same infrastructure proving economies of scale. Nuton has indicated the potential to significantly increase copper cathode output from our current 45-50 ktpa target which could materially enhance project economics. Furthermore, we see this as a significant de-risking event for ASCU shareholders with up to US$33 million in non-dilutive near-term financing and the addition of a strong project partner for future financing and development.”

Adam Burley, CEO of Nuton LLC commented, “We are pleased to be advancing our strategic partnership with ASCU. Successful deployment of Nuton Technologies at Cactus and Park/Salyer has the potential to materially enhance the economic and environmental performance of the projects.”  

Transaction Details
ASCU has entered into an Option to Joint Venture Agreement (the “Option Agreement”) with Nuton and two of ASCU’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, Arizona Sonoran Copper Company (USA) Inc. (“ASUSA”) and Cactus 110 LLC (“Cactus”), pursuant to which ASUSA has granted Nuton the exclusive right and option (the “Option”) to acquire between a 35.0% to 40.0% interest in the Company’s Cactus Project on the terms and conditions contained in the Option Agreement. 

The Option Agreement provides for total funding of up to US$33 million in cash, comprised of the following:

  • US$10 million payable by Nuton to ASUSA at signing of the Option Agreement;
  • Up to US$11 million available to be drawn by ASUSA in the form of a pre-payment towards the Option Exercise Price (defined below) to be used for certain land payments (the “Option Exercise Price Pre-Payment Amount”); and
  • Up to US$12 million payable to ASCU for funding costs associated with continued Nuton test work required to produce the Integrated Nuton Case PFS (defined below).

The parties have outlined a work program for the Nuton Case (as defined below) to commence in Q1 2024, targeting delivery of the Integrated Nuton Case PFS, by December 31, 2024. ASCU will continue to act as operator of the Cactus Project. ASCU and Nuton will form a Steering Committee, comprised of two members selected by ASCU and two members selected by Nuton, to determine, among other things, the detailed execution scope of the Integrated Nuton Case PFS. Nuton will have the right to nominate one individual to ASCU’s Technical & Sustainability Committee and will maintain its observer rights provided under the Investor Rights Agreement dated May 13, 2022, and as amended on February 9, 2023, between Nuton and ASCU.

Should the following criteria be satisfied (the “Trigger Events”), Nuton shall have the option to acquire between 37.5% to 40.0% of the Cactus Project by payment of the Option Exercise Price (defined below):

  1. the prefeasibility study prepared for the Cactus Project (the “Integrated Nuton Case PFS”) indicates that the net present value (the “NPV”) of the Cactus Project after applying the Nuton technologies (the “Nuton Case”) is at least 1.39 times the NPV of the Cactus Project without applying the Nuton technologies (the “Standalone Case”); 
  2. ASCU’s equity contribution to project capital costs under the Nuton Case shall remain equal to or less than its equity contribution to project capital costs under the Standalone Case (assuming 50% of the Standalone Case capital costs are financed with debt); and
  3. Nuton shall have made all payments required under the Option Agreement.

Should the Mainspring Property, which is currently the subject of exploration efforts, become material to ASCU and be incorporated in a prefeasibility study in addition to the Cactus Project (the “Standalone Case with Mainspring”) the Trigger Event (i) above shall be as amended and Nuton shall have the option to acquire between 35.0% to 40.0% of the Cactus Project (including the Mainspring Property) by payment of the Option Exercise Price in the event that the Nuton Case PFS with the Mainspring Property is at least 1.20 times the NPV of the Standalone Case with Mainspring.

Upon notice by ASCU to Nuton that the Trigger Events have been met, the parties will determine the exercise price (the “Option Exercise Price”) pursuant to mechanics outlined in the Option Agreement and based on the product of (x) Nuton’s ownership percentage in the Joint Venture Corporation (the “Initial Nuton Ownership Percentage”), (y) the NPV of the Standalone Case (as referenced in the Integrated Nuton Case PFS) and (z) a multiple of 0.65. 

Following such determination, if Nuton elects to exercise its option, Nuton will pay to ASUSA the Option Exercise Price net of any Option Exercise Price Pre-Payment Amount plus accrued interest at an annual rate equal to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate plus 4.25% (“Interest”) within 30 days of a notice to exercise. 

The Initial Nuton Ownership Percentage in the case without the Mainspring Property being incorporated in a prefeasibility study will be equal to either: 

  1. 37.5% if the NPV of the Nuton Case is 1.39 to 1.49 times the NPV of the Standalone Case; or 
  2. 40.0% if the NPV of the Nuton Case is at least 1.50 times the NPV of the Standalone Case (each as referenced in the Integrated Nuton Case PFS). 

The Initial Nuton Ownership Percentage in the case with the Mainspring Property being incorporated in a prefeasibility study will be equal to: 

  1. 35.0% if the NPV of the Nuton Case with Mainspring is 1.20 to 1.29 times the NPV of the Standalone Case with Mainspring; 
  2. 37.5% if the NPV of the Nuton Case with Mainspring is 1.30 to 1.39 times the NPV of the Standalone Case with Mainspring; or 
  3. 40.0% if the NPV of the Nuton Case with Mainspring is at least 1.40 times the NPV of the Standalone Case with Mainspring (each as referenced in the Integrated Nuton Case PFS with Mainspring).

ASCU shall hold the remaining equity interest in the Joint Venture Corporation and continue to act as operator of the Cactus Project.

Nuton will have the right to terminate the Option Agreement and be repaid amounts paid by Nuton under the Option Agreement if there is a change of control transaction in respect of ASCU during the term of the Option Agreement. 
In the event that Nuton exercises the Option, the parties will either form a Delaware limited liability company or deem Cactus to be the joint venture company for the Cactus Project (the “Joint Venture Corporation”). 

In the event the Triggers Events are not satisfied, ASCU terminates the Option Agreement as a result of Nuton delaying its approval of the Integrated Nuton Case PFS or Nuton elects not to exercise the Option, then Nuton may elect to either be repaid the Option Exercise Pre-Payment Amount, if any, advanced to ASUSA plus Interest within 9 months or have ASUSA  deliver to Nuton an unsecured exchangeable debenture (the “Exchangeable Debenture”) equal to the Option Exercise Price Pre-Payment Amount, if any, advanced to ASUSA plus Interest (the “Principal Amount”). If issued, the Exchangeable Debenture shall bear Interest and will mature at the earlier of (i) two years from issuance, and (ii) the date that is nine (9) months from the date on which Nuton delivers a demand notice to ASUSA, which shall be no later than nine (9) months prior to the date in (i). Nuton will have the right to settle all or a portion of the outstanding Principal Amount and Interest accrued thereon in common shares of ASCU (the “Common Shares”) at a price per Common Share equal to the volume weighted average trading price of the Common Shares on the principal stock exchange on which such Common Shares are listed for the five (5) consecutive trading days preceding the date on which Nuton delivers a notice of exchange, after giving effect to the prevailing Canadian dollar / U.S. dollar exchange rate, provided that Nuton and its affiliates may not own or control more than 19.9% of the then issued and outstanding Common Shares following such exchange. The Exchangeable Debenture will also contain certain pre-payment rights and resale notice rights in favour of ASCU as well as other customary terms and conditions for an agreement of this nature. The Toronto Stock Exchange has conditionally approved for listing the Common Shares issuable upon exchange of the Exchangeable Debenture, subject to the satisfaction of certain customary listing conditions.

A copy of the Option Agreement will be available under ASCU’s profile on SEDAR+ at www.sedarplus.ca. The summary of the Option Agreement outlined above is qualified in its entirety by the full text of the Option Agreement, and reference should be made to the Option Agreement for its full terms and conditions.

Qualified Persons Statement
Technical aspects related to the metallurgical program of this news release have been reviewed and verified by James L. Sorensen – FAusIMM Reg. No. 221286 with Samuel Engineering, who is a qualified person as defined by National Instrument 43-101– Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects. The indicative metallurgical information presented describes preliminary results from testing that is currently in progress and subject to confirmation.  Final metallurgical performance estimates will require decommissioning of the columns and analysis of the column residues.

Advisors
Scotiabank acted as financial advisor, and Bennett Jones LLP and Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP acted as legal advisors, to ASCU. Rothschild acted as financial advisor, and Torys LLP and Dorsey & Whitney LLP acted as legal advisors, to Nuton.

About Arizona Sonoran Copper Company (www.arizonasonoran.com | www.cactusmine.com)
ASCU’s objective is to become a mid-tier copper producer with low operating costs and to develop the Cactus and Parks/Salyer Projects that could generate robust returns for investors and provide a long term sustainable and responsible operation for the community and all stakeholders. The Company’s principal asset is a 100% interest in the Cactus Project (former ASARCO, Sacaton mine) which is situated on private land in an infrastructure-rich area of Arizona. Contiguous to the Cactus Project is the Company’s 100%-owned Parks/Salyer deposit that could allow for a phased expansion of the Cactus Mine once it becomes a producing asset. The Company is led by an executive management team and Board which have a long-standing track record of successful project delivery in North America complemented by global capital markets expertise.

About Nuton
Nuton is an innovative venture that aims to help grow Rio Tinto’s copper business. At the core of Nuton is a portfolio of proprietary copper leach related technologies and capability – a product of almost 30 years of research and development. Nuton offers the potential to economically unlock copper from primary sulfide resources worldwide through leaching, achieving market-leading recovery rates, contributing to an increase in copper production from copper bearing waste and tailings, and achieving higher copper recoveries on oxide and transitional material. One of the key differentiators of Nuton is the potential to produce the world’s lowest carbon footprint copper while having at least one Positive Impact at each of our deployment sites, across our five pillars: water, energy, land, materials and society.

NutonTM Technologies
The NutonTM technologies are proprietary Rio Tinto-developed copper heap leach related processing and modelling technologies, capability and intellectual property. 

For more information
Alison Dwoskin, Director, Investor Relations 
647-233-4348
adwoskin@arizonasonoran.com

George Ogilvie, President, CEO and Director 
416-723-0458
gogilvie@arizonasonoran.com
    
Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” and/or “forward-looking information” (collectively, “forward-looking statements”) within the meaning of applicable securities legislation. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements. Generally, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “plans”, “expect”, “is expected”, “in order to”, “is focused on” (a future event), “estimates”, “intends”, “anticipates”, “believes” or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, or the negative connotation thereof. In particular, statements regarding ASCU’s future operations, future exploration and development activities or other development plans constitute forward-looking statements. By their nature, statements referring to mineral reserves or mineral resources constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to statements with respect to timing of completion of a fully-integrated pre-feasibility study, potential project economic enhancements, potential improvements to per share returns to ASCU shareholders, potential increases to attributable copper production per share, and timing of commencement of the work program for the Nuton Case.

These forward-looking statements are based on ASCU’s current beliefs as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to it and involve inherent risks and uncertainties, both general and specific.

Risks exist that forward-looking statements will not be achieved due to a number of factors including, but not limited to, developments in world commodity markets, changes in commodity prices (particularly prices of copper), risks relating to fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and other currencies relative to the U.S. dollar, changes in exploration, development or mining plans due to exploration results and changing budget priorities of ASCU or its joint venture partners, the effects of competition in the markets in which ASCU operates, the impact of the NutonTM technologies on ASCU operations and cost relating to same, the timing and ability for ASCU to prepare and complete the Integrated Nuton Case PFS and the costs relating to same, the impact of changes in the laws and regulations regulating mining exploration, development, closure, judicial or regulatory judgments and legal proceedings, operational and infrastructure risks and the additional risks described in ASCU’s most recently filed Annual Information Form, annual and interim MD&A, copies of which are available on SEDAR+ (www.sedarplus.ca) under ASCU’s issuer profile. ASCU’s anticipation of and success in managing the foregoing risks could cause actual results to differ materially from what is anticipated in such forward-looking statements. 

Although management considers the assumptions contained in forward-looking statements to be reasonable based on information currently available to it, those assumptions may prove to be incorrect. When making decisions with respect to ASCU, investors and others should not place undue reliance on these statements and should carefully consider the foregoing factors and other uncertainties and potential events. Unless required by applicable securities law, ASCU does not undertake to update any forward-looking statement that is made herein.

TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — McEwen Copper Inc., a subsidiary of McEwen Mining Inc. (NYSE: MUX) (TSX: MUX), is pleased to announce abinding agreement for an additional US$30 million investment by Nuton LLCa Rio Tinto Venture, and existing McEwen Copper shareholder.

Nuton has agreed to invest US$30 million to acquire shares of McEwen Copper in a two-part transaction expected to close no later than March 10th, 2023 (the “Nuton Transaction”) consisting of: 1. Private placement of 350,000 McEwen Copper common shares, and 2. Purchase of 1,250,000 common shares owned by McEwen Mining in a secondary sale. Proceeds of the subscription and purchase are expected to be approximately US$6.5 million to McEwen Copper and US$23.5 million McEwen Mining, respectively. The proceeds of the private placement will be used to advance development of the Los Azules copper project in San Juan, Argentina, and for general corporate purposes.

After closing, Nuton will own 14.2% of McEwen Copper on a fully diluted basis, and McEwen Mining will own 51.9%. The transaction values McEwen Copper at approximately US$550 million.

McEwen Copper Chief Executive Rob McEwen said: “We are extremely pleased to have Nuton’s strong continued participation in McEwen Copper. Together we are exploring new technologies that save energy, water, time and capital in the pursuit of delivering green copper to Argentina and the world, a product that will contribute to the electrification of transportation and the protection of our atmosphere.”

In connection with the Transaction, McEwen Copper and certain of its affiliates entered into an Amended Collaboration Agreement (the “New Nuton Collaboration Agreement”) and a Copper Cathodes and Concentrates Purchase Rights Agreement (the “CCCPRA”), which are described below.

The NewNuton Collaboration Agreement provides for the following additional rights beyond those in the original Nuton Collaboration Agreement (see news release dated Aug 31, 2022):

  • Nuton will have the opportunity to provide local currency funding, in certain circumstances, for advancement of the Los Azules project;
  • Comprehensive scientific, technical and strategic planning information rights;
  • Extension of exclusivity over novel, trade secret or patented copper heap leach technologies until August 10, 2024;
  • Pre-emptive rights to maintain their ownership percentage in any follow-on equity offering; and
  • Agreement of McEwen Mining and Rob McEwen to not trigger Drag Along Rights in the event of a bid for McEwen Copper prior to the planned initial public offering (IPO).

The CCCPRA provides an option to Nuton that, if exercised to its maximum extent, would allow them to purchase a percentage of the copper products (cathodes, concentrates, etc.) produced from the Los Azules project equal to their equity ownership percentage in McEwen Copper at the time of exercise.

About Nuton

Nuton is an innovative new venture that aims to help grow Rio Tinto’s copper business. At the core of Nuton is a portfolio of proprietary copper leach-related technologies and capability – a product of almost 30 years of research and development. Nuton Technologies offer the potential to economically unlock copper sulphide resources, copper bearing waste and tailings, and achieve higher copper recoveries on oxide and transitional material, allowing for a significantly increased copper production. One of the key differentiators of Nuton is the potential to deliver leading environmental performance, including more efficient water usage, lower carbon emissions, and the ability to reclaim mine sites by reprocessing mine waste.

About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is the second largest mining and metals company in the world, operating in 35 countries, and producing the raw materials essential to human progress. It aims to help pioneer a more sustainable future, from partnering in the development of technology that can make the aluminum smelting process entirely free of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to providing the world with the materials it needs – such as copper – to build a new low-carbon economy and products like electric vehicles, charging infrastructure and smartphones.

About McEwen Copper

McEwen Copper Inc. holds 100% interest in the Los Azules copper project in San Juan, Argentina and the Elder Creek project in Nevada, USA (subject to an earn-in by Rio Tinto).

Los Azules was ranked in the top 10 largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world by Mining Intelligence (2022). Its current copper resources are estimated at 10.2 billion pounds at a grade of 0.48% Cu (Indicated category) and an additional 19.3 billion pounds at a grade of 0.33% Cu (Inferred category).

After closing the Nuton Transaction, McEwen Copper will have 28,885,000 common shares outstanding on a fully diluted basis, and its shareholders are: McEwen Mining Inc. 51.9%, Stellantis 14.2%, Nuton 14.2%, Rob McEwen 13.8%, Victor Smorgon Group 3.5%, and other shareholders 2.4%.

About McEwen Mining

McEwen Mining is a gold and silver producer with operations in Nevada, Canada, Mexico and Argentina. In addition, it owns approximately 52% of McEwen Copper which owns the large, advanced stage Los Azules copper project in Argentina. The Company’s goal is to improve the productivity and life of its assets with the objective of increasing its share price and providing a yield. Its Chairman and Chief Owner has personally provided the company with $220 million and takes an annual salary of $1.

This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful.

CAUTION CONCERNING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This news release contains certain forward-looking statements and information, including “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The forward-looking statements and information expressed, as at the date of this news release, McEwen Mining Inc.’s (the “Company”) estimates, forecasts, projections, expectations or beliefs as to future events and results. Forward-looking statements and information are necessarily based upon a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable by management, are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties, risks and contingencies, and there can be no assurance that such statements and information will prove to be accurate. Therefore, actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements and information. Risks and uncertainties that could cause results or future events to differ materially from current expectations expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements and information include, but are not limited to, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, fluctuations in the market price of precious metals, mining industry risks, political, economic, social and security risks associated with foreign operations, the ability of the corporation to receive or receive in a timely manner permits or other approvals required in connection with operations, risks associated with the construction of mining operations and commencement of production and the projected costs thereof, risks related to litigation, the state of the capital markets, environmental risks and hazards, uncertainty as to calculation of mineral resources and reserves, and other risks. Readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements or information included herein, which speak only as of the date hereof. The Company undertakes no obligation to reissue or update forward-looking statements or information as a result of new information or events after the date hereof except as may be required by law. See McEwen Mining’s Annual Report on Form 10-K/A for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021 and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the caption “Risk Factors”, for additional information on risks, uncertainties and other factors relating to the forward-looking statements and information regarding the Company. All forward-looking statements and information made in this news release are qualified by this cautionary statement.

The NYSE and TSX have not reviewed and do not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of the contents of this news release, which has been prepared by management of McEwen Mining Inc. 

WEB SITESOCIAL MEDIA    
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Toronto, ON, Canada McEwen Copper
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  Rob McEwen 
Mihaela Iancu ext. 320 Facebook:facebook.com/mcewenrob 
info@mcewenmining.comLinkedIn:linkedin.com/in/robert-mcewen-646ab24
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