Establishing a mining project, such as the Twin Metals Minnesota underground strategic metals mine, takes a lot of analysis, field study and time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists nine steps a mining project must complete before it can become operational. As part of this process, Twin Metals must secure more than 100 permits from local, state and federal agencies prior to the mine becoming operational.
1. EXPLORATION – All mines begin their life in the exploration phase. It is the process of searching for a mineral deposit, and then identifying the minerals and the deposit’s overall size.
2. ADVANCED EXPLORATION – Is an advancement of exploration activities to include the development of detailed mineralization reports and models of the deposit to aid in the development of the Mine Plan of Operation (MPO).
3. ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES – Are conducted in combination with advanced exploration activities to determine the current status of conditions on a mine site and identify potential environmental impacts. Data is included in the MPO.
4. PREFEASIBILITY STUDIES – Occur in combination with advanced exploration and environmental studies to analyze the siting, environmental protection strategies, mine engineering and design, mine processing technologies, facility locations and estimated economic impacts such as job creation, royalties and tax revenue. The prefeasibility study is the final step a mine takes before developing its MPO. The MPO will be submitted during the permitting stage to state and federal regulatory agencies for a rigorous and thorough environmental review.
5. FEASIBILITY STUDY – Is a detailed evaluation of all the information collected during the exploration, advanced exploration, environmental studies and prefeasibility studies, along with the mine plan of operation (MPO) to determine if a mining project should move forward to the permitting, financing, and construction steps. Once a feasibility study is complete it will provide the financial parameters for the project’s construction and operation.
6. PERMITTING – Is the process of applying for, and obtaining, all permits relating to construction, operations and eventual closure of the mine from local, state and federal authorities.
7. FINANCING – Is the process of sourcing capital, sufficient to fund the construction and early stages of a mine’s operation.
8. CONSTRUCTION – Is the capital intensive phase of building all surface and underground infrastructure needed to support operations.
9. PRODUCTION – Is the start of a mine’s operation, and represents the longest phase in a project’s life.