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4 Reasons Why Arizona Remains an Elephant Country for Copper, and How Prismo’s Hot Breccia Project Fits In

Known as the “Copper State”, Arizona has been the leading copper-producing state in the US since 1910. According to a report from the USGS, Arizona contributed 70% of the country’s copper output of 1.1 billion tons in 2023. Arizona produces a lot of copper, which helps the US to maintain its position as a top global copper producer along with major producers like Chile, Peru, China, and DRC. This makes Arizona an important region for copper exploration and new discoveries. 

USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries: World Copper Mine Production in 2023

Copper is a key metal in the shift towards cleaner energy. With the growing demand for electrification and green energy technology, comes the increasing demand for copper. However, there haven’t been enough high-quality copper deposits discovered in recent decades and this scarcity poses a threat to future copper supply. This emphasizes the need for more active copper exploration, especially in proven mining jurisdictions. Arizona is well-positioned to meet this rising demand and has been long considered as an “Elephant Country” for copper. Projects like Prismo Metals’ Hot Breccia highlights Arizona’s continued significance in copper exploration and its potential for significant discoveries.

Prismo Metals is a mining exploration company focused on Hot Breccia, a copper project in Arizona and two precious metal projects in Mexico (Palos Verdes and Los Pavitos). Prismo’s Hot Breccia project, is strategically located within Arizona’s copper belt, surrounded by  several very well-understood world-class copper mines including Morenci, Ray and Resolution. The following sections will explore four reasons why Arizona remains a premier destination for copper mining and how Prismo’s Hot Breccia project fits into this. 

RICH COPPER MINING HISTORY

Arizona has a rich history of copper mining dating back to the 19th century. Today, copper mining remains a vital part of the state’s economy. Major copper mines such as Morenci, Ray, and Globe-Miami, have produced significant amounts of copper over the years, solidifying Arizona’s position as the leading copper-producing state in the US.

Ore mill and smelter at Morenci (Photo from Western Mining History)

A recent report from the Arizona Geological Survey shows that there are currently 17 copper mines out of the 26 active metallic mines in the state. This success has built a wealth of knowledge and expertise in copper mining. In 2020, the mining industry in Arizona created a total of 47,657 jobs. Today, the state is home to many experienced miners, engineers, and geologists.

Location of the Hot Breccia Project within the Arizona Copper Belt (Photo from Prismo Metal’s corporate presentation)

By leveraging Arizona’s rich mining history, Prismo Metals’ Hot Breccia project is well-positioned for success. The expertise available in Arizona provides strong support, ensuring that Prismo Metals can use the latest technologies and sustainable practices to explore the property’s high copper potential.

FAVORABLE GEOLOGY FOR HUGE COPPER DEPOSITS

Arizona is home to some of the world’s largest copper deposits.The concentration of copper deposits in the state is outstanding and comparable to the copper provinces of Chile and Peru. Dr. Mark D. Barton from the University of Arizona notes that Arizona has the largest cluster of copper deposits in the United States and one of the largest in the world, second only to the central Andes of northern Chile and southern Peru.

 Porphyry copper deposits are the major source of copper in Arizona, and some examples of these deposits are Morenci, Ray, and Resolution.

Freeport-McMoRan’s and Sumitomo’s JV project, Morenci, is a porphyry copper deposit that has been producing copper since 1872. The total copper endowment of Morenci amounts to about 6.4 billion tonnes at a grade of 0.52% copper, making it the largest copper deposit in North America and one of the largest open-pit mines in the world.

ASARCO’s Ray Mine is another significant copper mine in Arizona. The Ray Mine is primarily classified as a porphyry copper deposit, similar to Morenci. Its history also dates back to the 1800s. It has an estimated total copper endowment of 1.6 billion tonnes at grades of 0.68% copper.

Among these examples, Resolution stands out as the most exciting copper discovery of modern mining times. It is currently one of the largest undeveloped copper projects globally, with a reserve of 1.8 billion tonnes at an average grade of 1.53% copper. In the 1970s, Magma Copper geologists recognized the potential for a deep copper deposit based on geological patterns and similarities to other porphyry copper systems in the region. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the Resolution deposit was discovered using geological mapping, geophysical surveys, and drilling. The exploration revealed a large, high-grade deposit hidden at a depth of about 1,500 meters.

In 2023, a ZTEM survey of Prismo Metals at Hot Breccia found a large anomaly similar in size to the Resolution deposit, located just 40 km north. What’s even more exciting is that this anomaly is located at a depth of only 400 m from the surface, below the area where historic drill holes intercepted >1% copper. Prismo Metals anticipates starting its 5,000-meter drilling program at Hot Breccia this year to test this anomaly with 5 holes, each with a target length of 1,000 meters.

Geologic map of the Hot Breccia and Christmas areas, with cross section lines and historic drill holes shown, and approximate surface projection of the ZTEM conductor and the 0.5% Cu limit of the Resolution deposit. (Photo from Prismo Metal’s corporate presentation)

Further supporting the potential of Hot Breccia is Freeport-McMoRan’s historic Christmas Mine, located 4 km from Prismo’s project.The mine produced around 25 million tonnes of ore with 363 Mlb copper, 2.1 Moz silver and 55,026 oz gold. The same productive geologic units that host high-grade, copper skarn mineralization at the adjacent, past-producing Christmas Mine, have been found at Hot Breccia.

Cross-section of the Christmas deposit and the Hot Breccia area. 

(Photo from Prismo Metal’s corporate presentation)

EXISTING MINING INFRASTRUCTURE

Arizona has a well-developed mining infrastructure, including transport networks, processing facilities, and a skilled workforce. This gives Prismo Metals a significant advantage in advancing its Hot Breccia copper project. Using this existing infrastructure and skilled workforce, combined with the proximity to existing and historic mines, further enhances the project’s potential for success.

Driven by record high-copper prices, Grupo Mexico’s subsidiary, ASARCO, recently announced its plans to restart the Hayden copper smelter in Arizona.The Hayden smelter, located just 2 km from Hot Breccia, will significantly boost the region’s copper supply upon reopening. It will be an addition to USA’s only domestic smelters: Freeport McMoRan’s Miami smelter in Arizona and Rio Tinto’s Kennecott smelter in Utah.

View of the Hayden Smelter from the Hot Breccia Property. (Photo from Prismo Metals)

SUPPORTIVE POLICIES AND REGULATIONS

Arizona is a mining-friendly jurisdiction and has a regulatory framework that encourages mineral exploration and development. According to the Fraser Institute’s 2023 annual survey of mining and exploration companies, Arizona ranks as the 7th most attractive jurisdiction in the world based on policy factors and mineral potential. Major mining companies that operate here include Rio Tinto, BHP, Freeport-McMoRan, ASARCO, Hudbay Minerals, and South32.

In July 2023, the US Department of Energy (DOE) officially added copper to its list of critical materials, highlighting copper’s essential role in clean energy technologies and its vulnerability to supply disruptions. This designation emphasizes the strategic importance of copper projects like Hot Breccia, potentially making them eligible for tax incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act 48C.

PRISMO METAL’S HOT BRECCIA PROJECT

The Hot Breccia Property in Arizona, USA. (Photo from Prismo Metals)

Prismo Metals’ Hot Breccia project is a prime example of Arizona’s untapped mining potential, a state known as an “Elephant Country” for copper. 

The Hot Breccia Project is a 1,420-hectare property located in the heart of the Arizona Copper Belt. Historical data, recent high-grade sampling results, and the discovery of a large conductive anomaly—potentially a porphyry-skarn mineralized center similar to the Resolution deposit located 40 km north—reinforce Prismo’s belief in Hot Breccia’s potential as the company moves closer to drilling.

Location Map of the Hot Breccia Property in Arizona, USA. (Photo from Prismo Metals)

The project’s location,  surrounded by several very well-understood world-class copper mines, emphasizes its exploration potential. Prismo Metals aims to leverage Arizona’s rich mining history, existing infrastructure, and supportive regulatory environment to advance the project efficiently. With the growing global demand for copper, Prismo Metals and its Hot Breccia project are well-positioned to play a key role in Arizona’s copper industry.