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Nevada mill delay frustrates, but copper story heats up for Great Western Mining

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“We’re frustratingly close, but not quite there yet!” is the message from Brian Hall, chairman of Great Western Mining Corporation [AIM:GWMO], regarding the AIM-listed mining and metal refinery company’s proposed mill in Nevada.

But the Dublin-headquartered mining company has a lot more going on, according to Hall who was speaking to The Armchair Trader. He said: “…People have tended to focus on the mill – which is great, but it is fundamentally an early-stage cash generator, and was never intended to be the big winner for Great Western – the main focus for the company is developing what we see as a significant and strategic copper deposit.”

The US government recently added copper to its critical mineral list, following a trend set by the EU, Japan and China, stating that the metal serves ‘an essential function’ in the production of energy transition technologies such as electric vehicles, defining copper as having: “a high risk of supply chain disruption”.

The US’ critical materials list will inform eligibility for government subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act and the final list includes aluminium, cobalt, copper, dysprosium, electrical steel, fluorine, gallium, iridium, lithium, magnesium, natural graphite, neodymium, nickel, platinum, praseodymium, terbium, silicon and silicon carbide.

As Hall said: “If we’re all going to be driving electric vehicles in the future, we’re going to need a lot of copper wiring.”

Strategic and benign location

And given the potential size of the copper deposits that Great Western thinks its on the cusp of discovering, and the fact that it is in the US – a significant present and future market for copper and a much more benign and structured mining jurisdiction than other projects globally – the real gold that Great Western could be pouring could well be coppery.

The focus of the company’s copper story is the Huntoon Valley, which Hall says: “…seems really remote and surrounded by hills but is in fact not that far away from a main highway,” and Great Western been exploring the highly prospective Walker Lane trend, having conducted a campaign of soil grab sampling, where, Hall said: “…we have identified a 2km2 anomaly, a large granite outcrop that hasn’t been properly mapped,” where, “…we could be on the edge of a large copper porphyry under the granite outcrop,” which combined with three other copper deposits in the valley leads Great Western to believe that there is a substantial contiguous copper deposit in the valley which could support a significant mining operation.

As well as the copper deposit on site, Great Western also identified “bonanza” deposits of gold and silver in the valley. The company said in a recent statement: “These grab sample results highlight the potential for high-grade precious metals at West Huntoon occurring in addition to the large-scale copper porphyry target identified during the 2023 field season. Although vein mining has been carried out on the claims in the past, the majority of the samples were not taken from existing workings. The West Huntoon granite and contact zones will be thoroughly grab sampled over a non-selective grid in 2024 to test for significant copper-gold-silver zones outcropping at surface.”

Great Western Mining  paying its own way

Obviously, to progress the project a lot more exploration and potential drilling will have to be undertaken, and this is where the idea of the mill comes in. “If we can pay for the running of the company through the mill, we can go to the market just to raise exploration capital to develop our copper project and the other gold and silver projects we have under exploration in Nevada,” said Hall.

The mill will not be pouring gold bars in the desert. Hall said: “Yes…even in a benign jurisdiction like the US you’ll be attracting the wrong sort of attention if you start refining gold bars in the desert – we’re in the Wild West after all and there’s only around 4,000 people living in the area we’re operating, which is about the size of East Anglia.” Instead the mill will produce concentrate, which will be shipped off for refining into bullion.

The mill is still on course, but is being held up by government regulators. “They’re a lovely set of people, who are doing a great job,” said Hall, “but they are understaffed and it’s a bit of grind.” As previously reported Great Western is still waiting on environmental permits to start refinery operations and has submitted an application for a licence to conduct stage-2 leaching operations at the refinery, which is still outstanding and the company and its partner hoped to get the mill up-and-running by the end of 2023, but are still waiting for the correct permitting.

Simple mining operation

However, the actual mining operation, once the mill is operational is quite simple, involving a grabber and a big truck and just surface lifting materials as previously reported from existing stockpiles on its own tenements and from its partner, and from other mine operators in the county.

The revenues from the mill should keep Great Western ticking over and create a welcome alternative revenue stream, but the company is focussed further down the county on it copper valley.

Hall believes that Huntoon could be serious venture, but: “there’s only so much a small mining company like ourselves can do; eventually we’re going to have to bring in a partner, with the perfect hook-up being a mid-tier mining company keen on getting a project into production.”

Great Western opened the week at 0.0644p, and is down 40% over one-year, with its shares ranging between  0.04p and 0.13p over a 52-week period giving the company a market capitalisation of GBP3.3m.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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