Friends and Supporters,
It has been a few months since our last update but rest assured that we have been monitoring the activities and all communications by Phoenix Copper as it relates to the proposed Empire Mine in Mackay, ID, including multiple conversations with the CEO of Phoenix Copper and ongoing contact with other members of management.
Phoenix Planning and Financing Process
As a reminder, there are multiple critical steps in the exploration, development, permitting, determining “Economic Feasibility” and filing of a Plan of Operations (PoO) before construction of a proposed mine like Empire can even be considered. There are also other important input and approvals required; local community input, formal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval of the PoO including an Environmental Impact Statement. Ultimately, final financing “terms and conditions” can only be negotiated after these steps are in place and before actual operations can begin.
In a very recent email to Phoenix Copper about the status and expected completion date of all these critical steps, the CEO didn’t answer the direct questions, but said on November 20 that they “have had for some time …3 groups of investors seriously interested in investing in the project.” Statements and representations about the supposed $300 million financing have been made repeatedly since early 2023. Later in the day, Phoenix Copper formally announced the “Extension of Loan Facility” until December 8th. This $2 million working capital loan will simply enable them to keep their few employees, pay the rent and keep the office lights on.
In an earlier March 2022 Update, we stated that “…our real work will begin when Phoenix Copper/Konnex Resources resubmits its Plan of Operations”. The initial filing of a PoO, submitted in early 2021, was rejected by the BLM as “incomplete”. The Challis office of the BLM responded to us only a few days ago that “We have not received any updates on Konnex’s future. They have not resubmitted a revised PoO and it has been almost 2 years.”
Both Trout Unlimited (TU) and Idaho Conservation League (ICL) have continued to work closely together. TU completed an extensive water rights study of the Big Lost River (May 2023). Both groups have toured the Empire and Navarre Creek sites on the ground and more recently from the air thanks to the help of a nonprofit group called EcoFlight (See more here). ICL has also regularly and frequently been in contact with the BLM, US Forest Service and publicly taken an outspoken position in the Idaho Mountain Express and their own periodic newsletters regarding the importance of remediation practices following mine completion and ongoing monitoring.
We have also been monitoring developments in the Navarre Creek area, where Konnex began early-stage exploration drilling this summer under approval from the US Forest Service. Some of the new roads and drill pads constructed as part of this project were visible from our overflight of the area. We are keeping an eye on the project to ensure that reclamation of temporary roads and drill pads is done properly. It is unclear what the next step in this exploration will be, or where Konnex would obtain the water necessary to proceed with full-scale mining operations (if it ever progressed to that point).
Tom Blanchard, one of our supporters, former Blaine County Commissioner and Mining historian, provided a strong rebuttal directly to Phoenix Copper in the Idaho Mountain Express about mining reclamation activities. Josh Johnson, ICL’s Central Idaho Director publicly challenged a claim by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (Idaho Mountain Express, 9/15/23) about contamination of the Big Wood River from the Triumph Mine. His statement that “Unfortunately, Triumph is the gift that keeps giving, reminding us that we need to make sure mining companies are held accountable”. His challenge to DEQ is relevant and ultimately directly applicable to any activities by Phoenix Copper.
We will continue to stay the course following Phoenix Copper/Konnex closely and questioning them directly when necessary. We thank you for your early and ongoing support and will keep you informed.
Joe Chlebowski, Terry Ring, Mark Ullman, Tom Blanchard, Josh Johnson (ICL) and Michael Gibson (TU)