Kwanika-Stardust Copper-Gold Project consists of two deposits- Kwanika and Stardust. (Credit: JacquieS from Pixabay)
Peak production at the project is expected to reach 152.1 million pounds (Mlbs) of copper equivalent (CuEq) annually. (Credit: James St. John/ Flickr)
Kwanika Central Open Pit. (Credit: NorthWest Copper)

Kwanika-Stardust Project in British Columbia, Canada, consists of two deposits- Kwanika and Stardust. A positive preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the project was announced in January 2023.

NorthWest Copper, a new copper-gold explorer and developer, owns 100% stake in the property.

According to the 2023 PEA, the Kwanika-Stardust project has a significant Copper-Gold (Cu-Au) production profile.

Peak production is expected to reach 152.1 million pounds (Mlbs) of copper equivalent (CuEq) annually. CuEq average production is estimated to be 90.6Mlbs per year over a Life of Mine (LOM) of 11.9 years.

The company is conducting studies to assess the viability of combining Kwanika-Stardust and the nearby 100% owned Lorraine Project. It will also continue exploration activity at Kwanika-Stardust to test high-grade drill targets.

Location and Site details

The Kwanika-Stardust project is located in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Kwanika deposit is situated around 140km northwest (approximately 200km by road) of the town of Fort St. James. The property can be accessed by road in four-wheelers from the town.

According to NI 43-101 Technical Report for the Kwanika Project Resource Estimate Update 2019, it has 61 contiguous unpatented mineral claims encompassing an area of 25,928.2ha.

The Stardust Property lies in the Omineca Mining Division, around 150km north of Fort St. James. It has 20 contiguous claims, according to NI 43-101 Technical Report effective May 2021.

The Lorraine Project is located approximately 40km away.

The project area has existing infrastructure, access to hydroelectric power as well as a local workforce to support company programmes.

KwanikaGeology and Mineralisation

Kwanika property has multiple porphyry copper-gold deposits such as Mount Milligan, New Afton, and Highland Valley.

It hosts two bulk tonnage deposits- the primary Central Zone Cu-Au porphyry, and secondary South Zone Cu-Au-Mo porphyry deposit.

The Central Zone of the Kwanika project, overlain by Cretaceous-aged sedimentary rocks, features a near surface open-pit resource as well as a higher-grade underground resource with potential for a block cave mining.

Mineralisation at the Kwanika Central Zone occurs in a moderately to steeply-dipping quartz-monzonite plug and dyke complex. The mineralised zones are defined by intense potassic alteration with chalcopyrite ± bornite occurring as disseminations in quartz vein stockworks.

Stardust- Geology and Mineralisation

The Stardust project is situated within the Cache Creek Terrane of the Intermontane Belt west of the Pinchi Fault. It has several intrusions cutting carbonate rocks interbedded with graphitic, siliceous, and calcareous phyllites, cherts, cherty argillites, and mafic flows.

It has a 2.2km corridor of mineralisation with four styles typical of a Carbonite Replacement Deposit (CRD) system- porphyry, skarn, manto and epithermal vein.

Mineral Resource Estimate

Kwanika Central’s Open Pit mine contains 66.6Mt of Measured and Indicated (M&I) resources at a grade of 0.26% Cu, 0.25 g/t Au, 0.92 g/t silver (Ag).

Kwanika Central’s Underground mine has 36.8Mt of M&I resources at a grade of 0.51% Cu, 0.62 g/t Au, 1.60 g/t Ag.

Kwanika South and Stardust Underground have 25.4Mt and 4.1Mt of resources in the inferred category, respectively.

In Kwanika Central, the mineral resources are 95% in the M&I categories, while Kwanika South and Stardust may record further growth of resources and conversion of inferred resources to M&I categories.

The mineral resource estimate has an effective date of 4 January 2023.

Mining and Ore Processing

Mining at Kwanika-Stardust project will involve employing open-pit and underground mining methods.

This will include Kwanika Central open pit (years 1-4); Stardust underground (years 4-9); Kwanika Central underground block cave (years 4-12) and Kwanika South open pit (years 9-12).

Over the LOM, NorthWest plans to mine 95.6Mt of mineralised material and 86.9 Mt of waste.

The conceptual development scenario for the project will seek to minimise the development impact by using existing infrastructure and processing mineralised material from multiple sources in one central facility.

This will involve developing a 22,000 tonnes per day (tpd) process plant to deliver high-quality copper concentrate with significant gold and silver by-product credits.

The facilities will include a SAG mill and one ball mill, flotation facilities, regrind facilities, and thickening and filtration activities to produce copper concentrates.

Tailing Storage Facility

The Tailings Storage facility (TSF) is planned to store more than 96.3Mt of tailings that will be produced over the life of mine.

It will be located in a valley east of the Stardust Deposit and upstream of the process plant site, and will be developed using a shell of non-acid generating waste rock with an upstream impermeable layer and in accordance with Canadian Dam Association guidelines.

Contractors involved

The PEA for the Kwanika-Stardust project was prepared by Ausenco Engineering Canada and Mining Plus Canada Consulting.

The 2022 metallurgical testing data was performed by SGS Minerals, ALS Metallurgy, Bureau Veritas Commodities, and Base Metallurgical Laboratories.

The NI 43-101 Technical Report for the Kwanika Project Resource Estimate Update 2019 was prepared by Moose Mountain Technical Services, while Geosim Services prepared the Stardust Project Updated Mineral Resource Estimate NI 43-101 Technical Report 2021.

The latest mineral resources of Kwanika Central (Open Pit and Underground) and Kwanika South (Open Pit) were compiled by Brian S. Hartman, Ridge Geoscience, and subcontractor to Mining Plus.

B Ronald G. Simpson of GeoSim Services compiled mineral resources for Stardust (Underground).