In the mining circles of Sudbury, Ontario it takes a lot to raise an eyebrow.
The resource business has been ingrained in the town for a long time. Long enough, in fact, that Sudbury’s founding dovetails with the very creation of the country. During construction of the the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883, blasting revealed high concentrations of nickel-copper ore at what was then a small lumber camp on the edge of the Sudbury Basin. As the twentieth century dawned, The International Nickel Company sauntered into town. Today, INCO’s (now Vale Limited) Copper Cliff processing facility remains the largest nickel smelting operation in the world.
On Tuesday, Sudbury’s claim as one of the western world’s preeminent mining towns got a shot in the arm. Vancouver’s Quadra FNX (TSX:QUX) made what CEO Paul Bly called “one of the most significant discoveries made in the Sudbury district in the past 40 years”. A 43-101 report from the company’s Victoria project showed an inferred resource hat totaled 12.5 million tonnes grading 2.3 per cent copper, 2.2 per cent nickel and 8.5 grams per tonne total precious metals. Quadra FNX will begin to develop the project next year and an internal scoping study estimates the mine will begin producing in 2017.
Quadra FNX was formed in May, 2010, through the merger of Quadra Mining and FNX Mining. Geographically, the company is an unusually diverse mid-tier miner, with properties in the US, Chile and Greenland. Investors, however, are clearly excited by the singular prospect of the Victoria project. Today, shares of the company closed at $15.59, up more than ten percent, on heavy volume.
Those bullish on Quadra FNX’s prospects no doubt feel the company’s timing is exceptional; the price of copper has risen ten fold in the past decade, tacked on 30% in 2010, and recently broke through the $1,000 per tonne mark. The price of copper has risen so high, in fact, that it actually now costs The Royal Canadian Mint 1.7 cents to produce a penny.
Many analysts, predictably, point to demand from China. Li Yihuang, chairman of China’s largest copper producer Jiangxi, says he expects Chinese demand may grown by 7% this year.
Quadra FNX produced 224 million pounds of copper in 2010 and 148,000 ounces of precious group metals. In 2011, the company says it expects to produce 240 million pounds of copper, seven million pounds of payable nickel and 115,000 ounces of precious group metals.