Western Copper gets a face lift

The owners of Yukon's Casino project are planning a name change. Western Copper Corporation will soon be known as Western Copper and Gold, once the company's board approves a series of changes in early October.

The owners of Yukon’s Casino project are planning a name change.

Western Copper Corporation will soon be known as Western Copper and Gold, once the company’s board approves a series of changes in early October.

It’s only appropriate, said Paul West-Sells, Western Copper’s president and chief operating officer.

After all, the company’s flagship property, Casino, is expected to generate 40 per cent of its revenues from gold during its early years of production.

And it doesn’t hurt to emphasize the amount of gold the company sits on when the metal’s price is floating around $1,900 per ounce.

The name change is also fitting because Casino will soon be the sole focus of the company. It is spinning out new companies to work its other properties.

One is the Carmacks deposit. Plans to build an open-pit at the site foundered when the Little-Salmon Carmacks First Nation and conservationists expressed fears the proposed mine would pollute the Yukon River.

In the end, the Yukon Water Board denied the company a licence. That decision is now being fought in the courts.

A new company, named Copper North, will continue to pursue plans to build a mine at the area.

And another company, named Northisle Copper and Gold, will work on the Island Copper property found on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Casino, located 380 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse, would be a monster of a mine if it’s built.

Western Copper believes there’s enough copper, gold and molybdenum to operate an open-pit mine for 30 years.

Casino would employ 1,400 workers during construction and 650 workers during the mine’s operation.

To put this in perspective, Yukon’s three operating hardrock mines are expected to employ 600 workers when they hit full steam later this year. Casino would more than double that.

But it would cost more than $2 billion to build Casino. That’s far beyond the means of a Vancouver-based mining junior, such as Western Copper.

So, if Casino’s to be built, the property will either be bought outright by a big copper and gold producer, or Western Copper will have to find a partner with deep pockets.

In the meantime, the company is firming up Casino’s worth with a bankable feasibility study, which ought to be complete by the end of 2012.

It’s also working on preparing on its project proposal, to be submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, also by late 2012.

“It’s full steam ahead to getting those two things accomplished,” said West-Sells.

The company is spending between $3-5 million this year on drillwork and environment assessments at Casino this year. It typically has between 20 and 30 workers on site, with peak periods of nearly 50 workers, said West-Sells.

Questions also remain over how the Casino mine would be powered. It would require a whopping 100 megawatts – nearly as much as Yukon Energy’s entire current capacity.

Western Copper is proposing that it will run on liquified natural gas. That would likely be shipped to a nearby port and trucked to the minesite.

Calgary-based Northern Cross wants to pump natural gas from Eagle Plains, off the Dempster Highway, and truck it to mines such as Casino. But these plans are a long way from delivery – the company is still proving up its resources.

Concentrate from Casino would be hauled from the mine to Skagway’s port. An access road would connect the mine to Freegold Road, which in turn connects to the Klondike Highway near Carmacks.

If all goes smoothly, the company envisions construction starting in 2013 and production in 2015.

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