Open Pit Ajax Mining Camp
Mineral exploration began in the Thompson Nicola region in the 1880's with the discovery of copper, gold and iron mineralization at the Iron Mask Mine near Kamloops. During this time, several claims were also staked around the Ajax property, with placer miners surveying the area during the early years of the Gold Rush in British Columbia.
Underground exploration began on the Ajax claim in 1906 and continued until 1914 when exploration in the area became sporadic during the First World War. In 1928, the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada completed several surface drilling programs on the Ajax property.
The original Afton copper deposit was then found by Chester F. Millar in the mid-1960s on a property west of and adjacent to the present Ajax property. It was operated as the Afton Mine following Teck's acquisition of Millar's company. Teck operated the Afton mine intermittently from 1987 until 1997, including production from two satellite pits, Crescent and Pothook. Production also occurred from the East and West Ajax pits during which it is estimated that 17 Mt of material was mined, and 13 Mt were milled. The original Afton deposit is now owned by New Gold, and they put it back into production as the New Afton Mine in 2012, producing Cu and Au.
Abacus acquired holdings in the Ajax area in 2002 from Teck and explored the Ajax property from 2005 to 2010. The Ajax property comprises eight Crown grants including the historic Ajax East and West pits. The Ajax project site is located at the southern extremity of the boundaries of the City of Kamloops and southeast along an existing haul road from the Afton mill, and it includes shop facilities, a tailings area, and water rights which Abacus purchased in 2005 from Teck-Cominco.
On July 31, 2009 Abacus filed a compliant positive preliminary economic analysis (PEA) on the Ajax property, after a series of successful drill programs from 2005-2008, and based upon an initial resource estimate released earlier that same year. The preliminary analysis on Ajax underscored the potential for a robust mining operation.
In May 2010, the Company announced the signing of a significant strategic investment agreement with KGHM Polska Miedz SA ("KGHM") to form a joint venture to advance the Ajax Project through the Bankable Feasibility Study and into production. KGHM is one of the world's largest copper and silver producers. On October 12, 2010 the parties executed the definitive joint venture shareholders' agreement. The property is now 100% owned by KGHM Ajax Mining Inc., a joint venture company owned 80% by KGHM and 20% by Abacus Mining & Exploration Corp.
Also in May 2010, Abacus commissioned an independent Feasibility Study (FS) Technical Report on the Ajax Project prepared in accordance with National Instrument 43-101. The FS was led by Tetra Tech as the project's lead consultant, in conjunction with a team of globally recognized consultants comprising AMEC Americas Limited, Knight Piésold Ltd., Golder Associates Ltd. and BGC Engineering Inc., with test work by G&T Metallurgical Services Ltd. (G&T) and Krupp Polysius. This report was dated January 12, 2012.
On January 13, 2016, Abacus announced a positive Feasibility Study Update superseding the FS of 2012 and incorporating an updated reserve and significantly updated engineering. The updated FS was prepared in accordance with NI 43-101 by a consortium of independent consultants under the direction of M3 Engineering and Technology Corp., a recognized global provider of design and construction services. Several significant changes were introduced to the project scope and layout which yielded positive economic, processing and environmental impacts for the Ajax Project. This report is dated February 19, 2016 and is available on this website.
A joint Federal and Provincial Environmental Assessment of the Ajax project was begun by KGHM Ajax in early 2011. Further details of this process can be found in the section on Environmental & Permitting on this website, but on December 15, 2017, Abacus announced that the British Columbia Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources declined the issuance of an Environmental Assessment Certificate. At the same time, the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada announced that the Project “is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and cumulative effects to Indigenous heritage and the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Indigenous peoples.”
The decision follows a six-year environmental assessment review process that involved extensive engagement with provincial and federal government agencies, technical working and community advisory groups, First Nations and a broad array of stakeholder interest groups including thousands of community members who took part. The provincial Ministers' decisions to reject the Ajax Project in view of the highest standards that were consistently met for public consultation and stakeholder engagement was a major disappointment to the Company. However, in the Company's view, the Project is technically sound, viable and economically beneficial for the Kamloops community, the First Nations, and for the Province of BC and the rest of Canada.
In 2020 KGHM, as project operator, undertook to re-establish a Kamloops project office, staffed with a newly appointed project superintendent tasked with moving the project forward.