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Canada-based Lion Copper and Gold (Lion CG) has signed an earn-in deal with Rio Tinto America for a stake in copper assets in Mason Valley, Nevada.

According to the agreement, Rio Tinto will have the option to earn a 65% interest in the Canadian firm’s copper assets.

These assets include 34,494 acres of land comprising the Yerington mine, greenfield MacArthur Project, Wassuk property, the Bear deposit, and associated water rights.

Rio Tinto will make a $4m payment for an exclusive earn-in option and for study and evaluation work at the Mason Valley project.

The agreement requires the study to be completed by Lion CG no later than 31 December 2022.

Upon completion of the feasibility study, the two firms will create an investment vehicle that will hold the mining assets. Rio Tinto will have at least a 65% stake in the investment vehicle.

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By GlobalData

Rio Tinto will have the option to increase its stake in the investment vehicle by finance up to $60m of Lion Copper and Gold’s project financing costs.

A further $40m of project financing costs can be funded by Rio Tinto in exchange for an additional 5% stake increase in its ownership.

Lion CG CEO Travis Naugle said: “The agreement offers the potential to both increase the scope and scale of our development and accelerate the path to first production.

“Should Rio Tinto exercise its earn-in option, we are confident that it will bring its own level of quality to progress the development of the mining assets towards becoming a strategic domestic copper producer with the highest ESG standards and performance.”

Rio Tinto will also assess the potential for deployment of Nuton technologies at a commercial scale at the project site.

Developed by Rio Tinto, the Nuton technology has been designed to enhance copper recovery from mined ore.

Rio Tinto Copper CEO Bold Baatar said: “This agreement will allow us to explore the potential commercial deployment of our Nuton copper leaching technologies in a historical mining district with a large copper endowment.

“These technologies not only offer Rio Tinto the potential to unlock additional copper, but to also deliver low carbon production with significant environmental benefits through reprocessing old stockpiles and tailings, and reducing waste from new and ongoing operations.”