Constantine Metals Answers Questions on Palmer Project
Constantine recently signed an agreement with Dowa Metals & Mining Co ., Ltd. to explore and advance the Palmer Project.
With the announcement of this agreement and plans to be actively exploring again after a two year hiatus, we thought it was a good time to update the community on the project and our plans.
What is the Palmer Project: The Palmer Project is a promising mid-stage mineral exploration project, operated by Constantine Metal Resources Ltd ., which has the potential to become a future high-grade, underground copper-zinc-gold-silver mine. Significant exploration work is still needed to determine if the mineral deposit will become large enough to warrant mining. If such a deposit is eventually defined, detailed environmental, geotechnical, and socioeconomic studies as well as extensive community consultation will be undertaken prior to permitting and construction of a mine.
Where is the Palmer Project: The Palmer Project is located south of the Haines Highway, near the historic Porcupine placer gold mining camp. Portions of the property are mountainous and other parts include relatively flat terrain with past and present logging activity.
Nature of the Dowa Agreement: Under the terms of the agreement Dowa can earn up to a 49% interest in the project and become partners with Constantine in Palmer’s future by investing $22 million in exploration expenditures over the next four years. The vast majority of this money will go directly into the ground in an effort to define a mineral resource that merits mining. Constantine is the operator of the project and will continue managing all activities including communicating our plans and activities with the community.
Background on Dowa: Dowa Metals & Mining Co ., Ltd. is part of the Dowa Group of companies whose origin dates back to the late 1800s, mining copper and zinc Kuroko deposits in northern Japan. Dowa developed their smelting and refining expertise over the years dealing with these relatively complex, polymetallic ores. Kuroko deposits are also called volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits (VMS for short). Dowa’s scientists pioneered some of the early research in these deposits, so it seems particularly fitting to be partnering with them on the Palmer VMS project. Dowa purchases concentrate from operating mines owned by others (including mines in Alaska), and also has an interest in three operating mines – the Tizapa VMS deposit in Mexico, and the Huckleberry and Gibraltar copper porphyry deposits in British Columbia. The refined metals produced at Dowa’s facilities in Japan are sold domestically and internationally and go into many of the items we use in our daily lives.
Dowa has a reputation for operating some of the most technologically advanced smelting and refining complexes in the world. Dowa has utilized their expertise in efficiently recovering many of the trace and rare elements contained in complex ores and have applied this to recycling. They are now a world leader in metal recycling and waste treatment, and employ a unique business model that is integrated with environmental business activities. To view Dowa’s corporate social responsibility reports, please visit http://dowa-csr.jp/en/report/index.html
Background on Constantine: Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. is a Vancouver, B.C.-based mineral exploration company that was formed in 2006 to explore the Palmer project. Constantine’s core management team has been involved with the project and worked in the area since 1997. Management has a track record of doing things right, with a member of the team receiving the Commissioner’s award for Project Excellence from the State of Alaska for his stewardship of an advanced underground exploration program located on Prince of Wales Island. Constantine’s expertise is in applying our geological know-how to the discovery and advancement of new mineral deposits. For more information on the Constantine team, visit http://constantinemetals.com/projects/haines_community/team/.
History of the Palmer Project: It all started with Merrill Palmer, a Haines local who prospected and began staking claims back in 1969. Merrill has played an active role in the project, which now bears his name, maintaining faith in its potential and seeing a number of companies explore the Property with encouraging but limited success. A major breakthrough occurred in 2007 when Constantine drilled high-grade copper and zinc mineralization in areas now known as the RW and South Wall zones. Since that time Constantine has drilled 42 holes and defined a mineral
Techniques used in mineral exploration: Constantine employs a variety of exploration tools to aid in the exploration and discovery of additional mineralization at the Palmer property. Traditional methods such as prospecting and mapping are still very important, but we now use diamond drilling, geophysical surveys, and detailed geochemical analyses. Together, these
techniques help us understand the three-dimensional surface and subsurface geology. Current work is focused on additional diamond drilling to expand known zones of mineralization and to discover new zones. To date, all activity has been supported by helicopter, including the movement of drills and personnel. Constantine has also sponsored a Master’s thesis designed to better understand the metal zoning and geochemistry of the deposit.
Who works in mineral exploration: Mineral exploration is a broad field that typically employs a diverse mix of employees including geologists, geotechnicians, diamond drillers, geophysicists, pad builders and carpenters, surveyors, helicopter pilots and mechanics, cooks, housekeepers, maintenance workers and general laborers, mountaineers, medics and first aid attendants, expediters, and others. The Constantine team consists of many of these positions, several of whom are Haines Borough residents. Services and supplies that support our exploration work include locally sourced lumber, locally built drill core boxes and drill core racks, meals and accommodation, fuel, hardware, and office supplies.
What metals are found in the Palmer deposit: Mainly copper and zinc, but also significant amounts of gold and silver. Information gathered mainly from the 2006-2009 drilling programs and some information from previous programs were used to calculate the initial resource estimate for the Palmer Property, which was released in January 2010. This study defined an inferred resource containing 4.12 million tonnes of rock with metal grades of 2.01% copper, 4.79% zinc, 0.30 grams/tonne gold, and 30.5 grams/tonne silver in the RW and South Wall Zones of the Property. Copper is vital to our modern society and is used extensively in energy generation and distribution, building products and electronic equipment. It is also a core constituent of many ‘green’ technologies, such as solar cells, wind turbines and electric vehicles. Zinc is primarily used in the construction and automobile industries for corrosion protection, but is also an essential micronutrient for human health.
What type of deposit is Palmer: The Palmer Property is host to VMS-style base (copper, zinc) and precious (gold, silver) metal mineralization. VMS refers to a type of deposit that is generated by volcanic activity and is composed of sulphide minerals. In the case of the Palmer VMS deposit, this process occurred over 200 million years ago on an ancient sea floor which has since been folded and uplifted to its present position in the mountain. Sulphides are minerals whose chemical composition includes sulphur in the compound. Sulphides are common in most rocks; however in mineral deposits they occur in sufficiently high concentrations so as to be economic to mine. In the Palmer deposit, these minerals are mainly chalcopyrite (copper), pyrite (iron), and sphalerite (sphalerite). The deposit also includes a significant amount of barite, a barium sulphate. Sulphide minerals form the ore in most types of mineral deposits, and are the primary source of copper, zinc and lead used in the world today.
Will the Palmer Project become a mine: We don’t know. Constantine has been able to define a considerable new mineral resource, but it is still far too early to predict if or when there could be an operating mine at the Palmer Property. There are four main stages of mineral exploration & development, starting with an early “grass-roots” exploration stage where a property may have one or more mineral occurrences or showings, but no established mineral deposits. The Palmer Property was considered an early-stage project from 1969 until 2007, when drilling encountered thick intervals of significant mineralization. It would now be considered a mid-stage project where we are required to do further exploration in order to enlarge and better define the existing inferred resource. Most of the work at this stage involves drilling in an attempt to expand the size of the deposit and to determine the grade and quality of mineralization. It takes considerably more work and time after that to complete the engineering evaluations, economic assessments, and environmental studies that are necessary to determine the feasibility of mine development. If a project is determined to be both economically and environmentally feasible to develop, then it takes more time still to permit, finance and ultimately construct.
If Palmer becomes a mine, will it be underground or open-pit: The high-grade nature of this kind of deposit allows for underground mining. The advantage of a high-grade underground mine is the rate of mining is much lower than that of an open pit mine and much less material is actually mined. It also allows miners to be much more selective in what is removed, thereby producing far less waste rock than other types of mines. The result is a mining operation with a much smaller surface disturbance and lower total footprint.
What is being done to understand and safeguard the environment at Palmer: Constantine, using a qualified third party, began collecting water quality data in 2008 in order to help establish baseline environmental conditions. This program continues with each active field season and will help, in part, to characterize the natural environment at the Palmer Property. Constantine has also initiated rock characterization studies to focus on the potential environmental effects of the rock geochemistry on water quality.
Constantine understands that subsistence, recreational and commercial fishing are very important to the local community and that clean water and the safeguard of healthy fish populations is essential. Fish and fish habitat studies will be an important part
of future work at Palmer. State regulations are very protective of aquatic ecosystems and there are many examples of important watersheds with past or present mining and thriving salmon stocks. As an example of Alaska’s stringent clean water regulations, the limits for copper concentration in mine water discharge are approximately 100 times more protective than human health standards for drinking water (http://www.dec.state.ak.us/water/wqsar/wqs/).
The environmental program at Palmer will progress and expand in accordance with successful exploration drilling results. If and when a deposit with sufficient size, grade and quality has been defined at Palmer, the mine permitting process in Alaska ensures that all projects are developed and mined in a responsible manner. Not only is protecting the environment, fishery, fauna, and water quality extremely important to Constantine, it is the law. Before permits for a fully operational mine can be granted, lengthy and detailed studies on everything from hydrology, air and water quality, and wetlands, to fish and aquatic habitats, and wildlife are required.
In addition to environmental studies, other socioeconomic and technical studies will also be conducted prior to mine permitting and construction. Permitting of mines in Alaska is coordinated by the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land & Water. To learn more about the permitting process please visit http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/mining/largemine/may5pptcolor1.pdf.
How is ore like that at Palmer
Ore is crushed and ground (milled) to the size of the individual mineral grains. The minerals containing the metals of value are then separated from those that are waste, resulting in what’s called a mineral concentrate. The concentrate is then transported to a smelting facility where the metal is extracted from the ore minerals and further refined. Smelters all over the world process concentrates from North American mines and, accordingly, it is beneficial to be near a deep-sea port, like Haines, that allows concentrate to be shipped efficiently.
Would a mine at Palmer produce tailings:
Yes. Almost all metal mines produce tailings. Tailings are the finely ground sand-size particles of rock that are left behind after milling the ore and extracting the minerals of value. It is far too early to say what the best option for tailings storage would be, but some common options include (a) dry stack storage in
which a dense and stable material is ultimately covered and reclaimed with vegetation, (b) placement back underground as paste-fill, and (c) impoundment or ponds in which the tailings are kept under water to avoid oxidation. Rock characterization and metallurgical studies will guide a plan to ultimately design an environmentally responsible tailings and rock dump facility that is protective of the surrounding ecosystem.
What is Acid Rock Drainage and would a mine at Palmer generate it: Sulphide minerals when left exposed to oxygen will break down to their constituent elements and have the potential to generate acid and liberate metals (acid rock drainage or ARD). This process, which requires both oxygen and water similar to the way rust forms on a car, is naturally occurring and is enhanced by increasing the mineral surface area that is exposed to air when breaking and milling rock. Historically acid rock drainage has resulted in negative environmental impacts at some mines; fortunately, we now benefit from decades of research and science into ARD and modern mines are designed and strictly regulated to ensure ARD and the negative impacts associated with it do not occur. The design starts with characterizing your rock types prior to mine design to minimize the amount of development rock that requires special handling. At the Palmer project, while there are sulphide minerals present, there is also a significant volume of acid neutralizing carbonate rich rocks within and surrounding the deposit, which provide flexibility and extra protection in the environmental design of a mining operation.
What scale of operation could Palmer become: It is too early to know if there will become a mine and accurately predict mine production rates. But based on what we know so far, and on comparison with other similar deposits such as the Greens Creek mine on Admiralty Island and Myra Falls mine on Vancouver Island, B.C ., it is not unreasonable to envisage a 1500 to 3500 ton per day underground mine with the potential to operate sustainably for many decades. This equates to 5 to 10 trucks of concentrate per day to the port. The envisioned underground mining rate is significantly less than that at many open pit mines operating in North America that process 25,000 to >100,000 tons of ore per day and in addition also move significantly more waste rock.
Who could work at a future mine: Mining is similar yet very different from mineral exploration and this is reflected in the different mix of employees. Mining is a highly technical operation focused on extracting the ore in the most efficient, safe, and environmentally conscious manner. Active mining operations employ miners, heavy and light duty equipment operators and mechanics, engineers, geologists, metallurgists, lab technicians, environmental scientists, and drillers, together with an even larger support team of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, office managers and accountants, health and safety specialists, medics, warehouse staff, janitors, truck drivers, and cooks…to name a few. One would expect significant participation from Haines Borough residents in any mining operations, both directly and indirectly. Should Palmer eventually advance to a mine, potential operations would likely include between 150 to 300 direct long term jobs. Goods, services, and taxes are a significant part of the operation’s revenue that is distributed to the State and the community.
What have you done to inform the community: We strive to be accessible and provide open and honest communication of our plans. Constantine makes an effort to meet individuals and stakeholders in the community, including hosting an information booth at the State Fair for the past two years. As part of this effort we maintain space on our website dedicated specifically to the Haines Community with facts about the project and responses to frequently asked questions ( http://constantinemetals.com/projects/haines_community/) and have also held geology education sessions through the local schools.
We want to hear your feedback. Please contact us directly, Darwin Green, VP Exploration at 604-629-2348 or email at email@example.com.
While still a long way from knowing the future for the project, with successful development Palmer has the potential to become a source of prosperity and make a lasting, positive contribution to the well-being of the community. Mining can diversify and compliment existing economies, enhance community vitality, and be done in a way that is protective of the environment.