Long Live the Queen of Mines!

Thanks to EMED Mining, lethargy at Rio Tinto is a thing of the past as she rises once again to power as a European resources producer

Not only is Rio Tinto one of the most significant investment commitments in Andalucía/Spain, it is also the largest industrial mining project in the region. The total investment required to reopen this historical open-pit copper mine amounts to over €300 million, creating 400 direct jobs and some 850 indirect jobs over a minimum of 14 years. The operation will contribute some €1,300 million to the GDP of Spain’s province of Huelva, an achievement that may sound something of a chimera in this current crisis climate, especially in such a depressed mining region experiencing record levels of unemployment (some 52%).

From an environmental perspective, this will also be a transformational project as the site is currently unrestored after centuries of intensive mining operations. EMED is committed to reversing this situation, both during operations and in the post-closure phase, and will leave the site in a clean and sustainable condition, in line with modern European standards and the legislation in force.

Indeed, this is imminent. According to recent statements by the authorities of the Spanish Autonomous Region of AndalucĂ­a, Rio Tinto would be ready to start preparations this year, once the two initial permits are granted allowing the full start-up to be triggered: the mining permit and the environmental authorization. EMED Mining, who owns the land and the existing mines and plant, is equally committed to meeting this schedule.

EMED Mining is a Cyprus-based exploration and development public company founded in 2005 by a group of highly-specialized executives from the natural resources sector of leading countries such as Australia and Canada.

The mine can be in production in the second half of 2014. Prior to this, the installations need to be refurbished and modernized to bring operations in line with the latest safety and technological standards.

With more than 5,000 years of history, Rio Tinto will be back to the market conditions and technological innovations. The current project plans to extract 123 million tonnes of ore at 0.49% Cu, which will allow the existing milling and flotation facilities to produce some 37,000 tonnes of copper-in-concentrate per year at a 9 million tonnes per year throughput ratio.  The calculations are based on historical data but additional resources are to be confirmed in an extensive exploration campaign that would allow the company to convert 203Mt resources (containing Cu 933.000 t) to reserves. EMED will seek additional opportunities in this prolific mining field, which hosts historical underground mines and has not been drilled in the last 25 years, and was never at depth. The technical and economic figures of the Project are shown in Table 1.

But all this will be impossible without the engagement with the local communities that has historically shaped its economy and way of life thru mining. EMED is becoming a prominent member of the community accepting an important commitment: not making the same mistakes as those made in the past. With this view, EMED has launched a Foundation for the diversification of the mining district. Its focus will be assisting and promoting the development of an economic network that is complementary to and capable of surviving possible metal market distresses by developing the strengths of the community: the skills acquired through mining, the exploitation of the remarkable heritage assets, the future restoration and the strategic opportunities related to the land.

Rio Tinto can therefore be considered one of the world’s emblematic and ancient mines whose mere mention evokes a historical past of suffering, boldness and wealth. This Queen of Mines is the birthplace to generations of miners across the industry worldwide and was for many years the largest mine known to the contemporary world. And now she wants to rise back to power in Europe.

Jesus Caballos, EMED