Sustainably Transforming Sapuchi from Copper to GoldBy Karin Dilge | Wed, 07/06/2022 - 17:03
Canadian company Osisko Development transformed its San Antonio mining project through its subsidiary Sapuchi Minera in Sonora, developing it from passively environmentally friendly to fully sustainable. Osisko acquired the 11,000-ha project at the end of August 2020 and has worked full force to fast-track its operations, shifting the focus from copper to gold in the process.
Alma Luviano, Environmental Manager, Osisko Development, said the project is located 172km from the capital of Sonora and has been successfully turned into a sustainable operation. Owing to the proximity of the project to Sonora’s capital, Osisko could carry out the transition successfully. The asset was acquired as a copper mine, but gold has been found too, so the company is utilizing previously-used materials for these procedures. The mining company is conducting major exploration campaigns nearby. “The San Antonio project is located in a region with significant geological resources, with a great potential to grow and increase its resources,” said Luviano.
What is more, Luviano mentioned that all exploration and production activities have been carried out through authorized Preventive Reports, as the company worked in areas that had been previously affected by mining operations. Therefore, Osisko set out to minimize its environmental footprint.
The biggest challenge Sapuchi Minera overcame was to complete the transition from a copper to a gold project while causing a minimal social and environmental impact. This challenge consisted of three main obstacles. The first issue was to explore without causing a significant impact. Sapuchi Minera started two drilling campaigns that took 5 years to complete, doing so with a minimal footprint on the environment.
Another challenge was to take advantage of the acquired equipment and infrastructure, using it optimally to produce gold instead. Roads, buildings, terrains, a monitoring network and flotation plants, among other assets, were adapted to benefit the company’s gold exploitation. Osisko had to dismantle and recondition some of these assets to minimize the financial impact of its transition.
Lastly, for the copper leaching plant, the company constructed water pools to contain the material kept inside so it would not spread out and cause environmental damage. Osisko assured nearby communities of periodical maintenance works, emphasizing it would never forget or underestimate its responsibilities to them or the environment.
“Our project is being evaluated and enhanced as a differentiator of the company. We attempt to build better water gathering systems. We are looking at several options to do this while minimizing our own water consumption,” Luviano said.
The company confirmed that San Antonio’s Sapuchi site could yield about 1Moz of gold. Currently, the company is working on the design and construction of Sapuchi Gold to begin its operation as soon as possible. The site is expected to yield between 50,000 and 60,000 oz/y of gold. Simultaneously, the company has discovered six promising drill sites covering 15 km, which Osisko aims to explore further.