The past year has seen Anglesey completing the first drilling programme at Parys Mountain since 2012, while an internal review of the project's promising Northern Copper Zone, released in November, showed substantial upside to the existing inferred resource base.
Jo Battershill, Anglesey's CEO, has been busy lining up service providers and consultants ahead of a pre-feasibility study planned for 2023. He told Mining Journal "internal confidence was building that there is a development here; it's just a matter of how we optimise it".
"[This year] investors are going to see this project progress through the gated hurdles that really should have been done years ago, and we will demonstrate that this project is being taken through to a final investment decision," Battershill said.
Newsflow over the course of the year will focus on the various chapters of the study phase, including preliminary engineering design work on the tailings and process plant, as well as ongoing work related to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Battershill said.
At the same time, Anglesey will look to complete infill drilling at the Northern Copper Zone as soon as practicable, which Battershill believes is central to the project's success.
Discovered in 1962, the Northern Copper Zone was drilled allowing for an internal resource estimate of 17Mt over the space of six years, with what would today be considered an ‘exploration target' of 60-200Mt. The explorers then spent a further three years increasing the resource to 33Mt at just under 1.0% copper, excluding credits from the gold, silver, zinc and lead that was also identified but not estimated.
"So, we're currently sat here with an inferred resource of 9.4Mt, but with a history that shows earlier geologists were confident there was a resource of over 30Mt," Battershill said.
"If we can increase the current resource to anywhere close to the 30Mt historical resource that was declared internally back in the 1970s and demonstrate that there is upside potential to that, then we will be in great position", he said.
"Our PEA design is based on a mining rate of 3,000 tonnes per day and perhaps this could be tweaked higher if the thickness of the Northern Copper Zone is demonstrated to be consistent. The key historical drill intersections have an average width of around 60m but can extend to over 140m in places. This may enable a future optimisation to consider increasing mined volumes, although the site will always be limited as to what the size of the mine is going to be to a certain degree. I certainly think this all leads to a view that this zone of mineralisation could potentially support a very long life.
So often the cause of headaches for junior miners, Battershill is confident that permitting for Parys Mountain will be attainable, largely because of the precedent from the project's previous permits in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
"Permitting is always an iterative process, which can sometimes lead to slippages in schedules. Importantly, we've got a lot of support from the region, the local town and the general community. The local Mineral Planning Authority are very familiar with the project and they're being as helpful as they can be," Battershill said.
As with other UK mines South Crofty and Hemerdon, Parys Mountain is classified as a dormant mine site, so Anglesey already holds several extant planning permissions. "We've reviewed all the historical permissions and are getting them updated. We may have to expand the area covered by the previous permissions as well, which will all take time but there is a due process." he said.
The process may also be smoothed by the fact that other miners have made headway in the UK in recent times. "We're not beating a new track - it's a route that's been followed and completed by other mining companies in the UK over the last two or three years. So, the process is now better understood than it was a decade ago."
And while mining is no longer one of the UK's core industries, Battershill believes Parys Mountain will prove an ideal location to ensure a successful development.
"There is an educated workforce located 2 miles to the north, there is superb infrastructure every which way you look, and it's not located in a nation with a history of civil unrest or uncertainty around legal ownership of mining assets," Battershill explained. "If the site needs 100cu.m of concrete, there are at least four batching plants located within a 40 mile radius that can provide it; there is an operating port 20 miles away, power is already connected to site - all these elements that just lead into a potential development."
With a solid operating environment, the Company has been putting together a strong team of people capable of executing the strategy. Two new directors were brought in last year with skillsets that Battershill believes will come in very useful over the next 12-18 months as Anglesey pushes Parys Mountain through to FID.
The first was Namrata Verma, founder of debt advisory firm Terrafranca, which recently played a central role in organising funding for Adriatic Metals' Vares project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The other was Andrew King, former head of Standard Bank's Resources Banking team and Chief Executive of Standard Bank Asia.
"What we're trying to do is to put the right team in place at board level and the addition of Namrata and Andrew was a terrific outcome for shareholders," he said. The recruitment drive is still ongoing; Battershill is also on the look-out for a chief operating officer and project managers both for Parys Mountain and for the company's Grängesberg Iron Ore project in Sweden.
As one of the metals central to the energy transition, copper has attracted strong interest from investors since prices rose in 2021.
However, copper has yet to be classified as a critical mineral by the UK's Critical Mineral Association (CMA) - a controversial decision that rankles Battershill, albeit one he believes will soon change.
"[Reclassification] is not going to change what we do, but does it change perception of the project? I think it does," he said. "If the CMA were to recognise that copper should actually be front and foremost in that suite of elements the government needs to focus on, well, we are the only listed company that has the potential to deliver domestic copper production in a reasonable timeframe."
While potential output from Parys Mountain of between 15,000-20,000t would be relatively insignificant in terms of the global copper market, Battershill believes it represents an important starting point. "Is this project big in the scheme of global mining? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. But could it be useful in terms of a smaller level of self-sufficiency and reduce supply chains for UK manufacturers? Yes, it could well be," he said.