Rio Tinto’s subsidiary Nuton has opted into stage 2b of the option to earn-in deal, for funding Lion Copper and Gold’s Yerington copper project in Mason Valley, Nevada.

Stage 2b offers full funding of $10m to conclude prefeasibility study on the copper project by the third quarter of next year.

Based on the positive results from the drilling tests previously conducted in October this year, Nuton has offered another $1.5m in advance under stage 3 funding to carry out exploration on some parts of the Bear deposit.

The total funding of $11.5m is expected to be deposited by the end of this month and will help realise a detailed work scope, to be agreed between Lion and Nuton.

Lion Copper and Gold co-chairman and CEO Travis Naugle said: “We look forward to the nearing completion of the preliminary economic assessment, and are thrilled to initiate a pre-feasibility study evaluating Nuton technologies and their potential to unlock substantial value at our Yerington Copper Project.

“Additionally, the latest exploration results offer tantalising evidence that we have only begun to uncover the immense potential of the Bear deposit. With Nuton’s support, we will methodically advance both the study and ongoing drilling efforts to demonstrate the exceptional prospects we see emerging here in Nevada.”

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Lion also stated that it has amended the purchase agreement for adjacent land from Circle Bar N Ranch.

It is offering an option to buy the land for $12m by 15 June 2025, $13m by 15 June 2026 and up to $14m by 15 June 2027. This land is part of the Bear land package, which is crucial to expand the project.

With this agreement, Nuton can evaluate its innovative copper heap leaching technologies, which could significantly enhance copper recovery while improving environmental performance.

Lion entered the option agreement with Rio Tinto in March 2022, according to which, it will have an option to earn 65% interest in its copper assets covering 34,494 acres of land.

These include the Yerington mine, greenfield MacArthur Project, Wassuk property, the Bear deposit, and associated water rights.