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Miners encouraged by Ambler underground copper deposit

Yereth RosenAlaska Dispatch News

The company seeking to mine copper, zinc and other metals from the Ambler Mining District in Northwestern Alaska says it has encouraging news from this year's exploration drilling.

Holes drilled into the Bornite project, one of two active mining projects in the Ambler district, found additional copper resources near the surface that are potentially suitable for open-pit extraction, with ore containing moderate concentrations of the metal, Vancouver-based NovaCopper Inc. said in a statement released Tuesday. Copper ore deeper in the earth was found to be richer and potentially suitable for underground mining, NovaCopper said.

The latest information about NovaCopper’s 2013 exploration results adds to information released by the company on Oct. 7. Those results suggest that the two mineralized zones within the Bornite project appear to be linked at lower depths, making underground mining a more enticing target.

The Ambler Mining District is located 200 miles east of the giant Red Dog Mine. The two active projects within it, Bornite and Arctic, are separated by about 16 miles. NovaCopper is pursuing both, in cooperation with NANA Regional Corp., and has grouped them into what it calls the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects.

NovaCopper’s drilling this year and in 2012 focused on the Bornite project, which was less explored than the Arctic resources. More Bornite exploration-drilling results will be released in coming weeks, NovaCopper said.

NovaCopper was created in 2011, spun off from owner company NovaGold Resources Inc. specifically to pursue the Ambler Mining District projects.

To encourage more development at the Ambler Mining District, Gov. Sean Parnell is pushing for a road linking it to the Dalton Highway to the east, part of his “Roads to Resources” program. The Alaska Legislature this year appropriated $8.5 million for the Ambler road project.

NovaCopper in April signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to investigate permitting and construction of the access road.

But the road is opposed by a local group, the Brooks Range Council.

Contact Yereth Rosen at yereth(at)alaskadispatch.com