Western is currently looking into a possible phase II expansion for Casino, which would extend the mine's life to 47 years. Courtesy of Western Copper and Gold.

Western Copper and Gold Corporation released the results of its preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Casino copper-gold-molybdenum deposit, located 300 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse, Yukon, on June 22. The financial scenarios of the PEA, according to the release, “indicate that the potential economic returns from the [Casino] project justify its further development and securing the required permits and licenses for operation,” the next step in a project which has been in development since 2008.

The PEA is based on a previous resource estimate from July 2020, which found total measured and indicated resource of 14.5 million ounces of gold grading at 0.19 grams per tonne, 113.5 million ounces of silver grading at 1.5 grams per tonne and 7.6 billion pounds of copper grading at 0.14 per cent from 2.39 billion tonnes of ore. The study evaluated the project as an open-pit operation that would deliver 120,000 tonne-per-day to the processing plant and also include gold heap leach facility designed to process 25,000 tonnes per day.

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The study estimates an after-tax net present value (NPV) of $2.3 billion with an eight-per cent discount based  on a US$1,600 per ounce gold price and a copper price of US$3.35 per pound, with a life of mine (LoM) of 25 years, processing 1.3 billion tonnes of mineralized material. The total initial capital investment at Casino is estimated at $3.25 billion, with LoM capital costs of $3.97 billion, and operating costs calculated at $6.17 per tonne.

Western also examined the possibility of extending the operation into a second phase, which would look to process the remaining one billion tonnes of ore from the mine over an additional 25 years, bringing the total LoM to 47 years. Factoring in the second phase, capital expenditures would increase to $5.06 billion over the total LoM, with a slightly increased after-tax NPV of $2.38 billion.

President and CEO of Western Paul West-Sells said in the release that he is “extremely pleased with the results from the PEA,” and that “This study reaffirms Casino as one of the very few long-life copper-gold projects with robust economics in a top mining district, the Yukon.” On May 31, Western announced that it had completed a strategic investment from Rio Tinto of approximately $25.6 million, giving the mining giant an eight per cent stake in the company.

The company stated the next step will be to define a mineral reserve for the project.