Hudbay Minerals has entered an option agreement with a subsidiary of Marubeni, a Japanese trading company, to explore three projects near Hudbay’s processing facilities in Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada.

As per the agreed terms, Marubeni has the option to acquire a 20% interest in the projects by spending at least C$12m in exploration over five years.

Marubeni Copper Mining Department general manager Masafumi Ichigetsu said: “The signing of an option agreement with Hudbay gives us access to the Flin Flon Greenstone Belt, one of the most prospective base metal VMS camps in the world.

“We see tremendous opportunity to partner with Hudbay’s technical expertise and proven track record of successful discovery, development and operation of many mines in the region.

“This is our first step to a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with Hudbay that will undoubtedly yield exceptional results.”

Upon fulfilling the earn-in conditions, Marubeni will form a joint venture with Hudbay, with Hudbay maintaining an 80% interest and acting as the operator.

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The projects included in this agreement are the Cuprus-White Lake, Westarm and North Star, all situated within trucking distance of Flin Flon.

The Cuprus-White Lake project, around 10km south-east of Flin Flon, spans 3,384 hectares (ha) and comprises 94 claims.

The Westarm project, 14km south of Flin Flon, includes three primary claims over 727ha.

This area has a history of significant production, yielding more than 1.4mt from the 1970s to the 1990s, with copper grades averaging 3.2% and gold at 1.58 grams per tonne (g/t).

The North Star area, 17km east of Flin Flon, consists of 22 claims covering 406ha.

Historically, it hosted the North Star mine, which produced more than 242,000t at 6.11% copper and 0.34g/t gold, and the Don Jon mine, with 79,000t at 3.09% copper and 0.96g/t gold.

Exploration activities are scheduled to commence in the summer of 2024, focusing on geochemical assessments and mapping programmes to evaluate the potential of these projects.

Hudbay president and CEO Kukielski said: “This arrangement allows us to partner with Marubeni and leverage our operational and exploration expertise to test our large Flin Flon land package to potentially bring another mine into production and utilise Hudbay’s idle processing infrastructure in Flin Flon.

“Hudbay has discovered and operated 29 mines in our nearly 100-year history in Manitoba and we have the potential to continue that success with this renewed focus on exploration in Flin Flon.”