It didn't get a lot of fanfare--but it might be one of the most important developments in the North American mining sector for decades.
That's the opening of one of the latest mines in America: the Eagle copper-nickel project, operated by Lundin Mining.
Platts confirmed with company officials late last week that Eagle is now shipping mineral concentrates. With output expected to ramp up to peak capacity through 2015--at which point it will be putting out 23,000 tonnes of nickel (51 million pounds) and 20,000 tonnes of copper (44 million pounds) per year.
That's not huge by any means. Nor is Eagle's projected eight-year mine life. Rather, the thing that makes this development critical for the mining sector is its location.
The successful commissioning makes this one of the first mining projects to be brought on-stream in Michigan for a long while. Despite the fact that numerous ore bodies with very good size and grade are known here, there's been little in the way of development, largely due to issues around permitting--both perceived and real.
But Lundin has proved that a mine can be built here. Perhaps opening the door to further development in the area.
That could also extend to states bordering Michigan. With places like Minnesota also seeing a number of projects advancing towards permitting and production of late.
As I've discussed before, this may signal a significant opportunity in the making. The geology of this area carries proven potential for a host of metals--including copper, nickel, iron and even platinum group elements.
And the region has seen little exploration during the most recent mining bull market. Meaning that new ore bodies likely abound here.
That could be a recipe for major discoveries if the area continues to prove its friendliness to mining. Watch for permitting decisions on other projects in the region, as well as exploration projects being started here.
Here's to a star being born,
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