Highland president and CEO Denis Miville Deschenes admitted at the Beaver Creek Precious Metals Summit "it's very tough at the moment on the equity side" with the company's sub-C$50 million market cap. It has strong backers in the form of Greenstone Resources (17%), Orion Mine Finance (15%) and Osisko Gold Royalties (16%) which, with institutional and management shareholdings, leaves about 21% of free float in its 473 million shares.
Deschenes said Highland had started talks with potential debt financiers and would be "pushing hard to complete" a project finance package early next year.
He said the company was expecting to have Copperwood re-permitted by the end of 2018 (renewing earlier full permitting by Orvana Resources).
Highland wants to establish a 6,000t per day underground mine to feed a 2.4 million tonnes per annum plant and initially produce 61.7Mlb of copper and about 100,000ozpa of silver at operating costs of around US$1.29/lb for copper (first five years) with project capital payback within 3.5 years at a copper price of $3.15/lb.
Deschenes said the company had framed its feasibility study mine plan earlier this year when copper prices were stronger, but obviously remained bullish about the red metal's long-term pricing.
Highland's 42Mt of measured and indicated resources, grading 1.4% copper, used in the FS mine plan is part of current M&I resources of about 50Mt at 1.2-1.6% copper and inferred resources of a further 50Mt, using $3 copper and $18/oz silver.