Determining the economic viability of mineral deposits of various sizes and grades is a critical task in all phases of mineral supply, from land-use management to mine development. This study evaluates two simple tools for estimating the economic viability of porphyry copper deposits mined by open-pit, heap-leach methods when only limited information on these deposits is available. These two methods are useful for evaluating deposits that either (1) are undiscovered deposits predicted by a mineral resource assessment, or (2) have been discovered but for which little data has been collected or released. The first tool uses ordinary least-squared regression analysis of cost and operating data from selected deposits to estimate a predictive relationship between mining rate, itself estimated from deposit size, and capital and operating costs. The second method uses cost models developed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines (Camm, 1991) updated using appropriate cost indices. We find that the cost model method works best for estimating capital costs and the empirical model works best for estimating operating costs for mines to be developed in the United States.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
A simplified economic filter for open-pit mining and heap-leach recovery of copper in the United States
U.S. Geological Survey
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center