Miner pumps $2B into first fast-tracked critical minerals project

By Hannah Northey | 02/15/2024 01:09 PM EST

The proposed zinc mine is in southern Arizona near the Mexico border.

the Coronado National Forest near Hereford, Arizona on December 20, 2022.

A border wall constructed of shipping containers cuts through the wilderness as it stands along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest near Hereford, Arizona, on Dec. 20, 2022. A fast-tracked mining project in the region could include areas within the Coronado National Forest.  Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

An Australian mining company is investing more than $2 billion into a proposed zinc mine in southern Arizona — the first critical minerals project the Biden administration has opted to fast-track through a special permitting process.

South32’s board announced the funding decision Wednesday for its Hermosa mine, which the company said will allow it to begin producing zinc ore, used in electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy technologies, by the first half of 2027.

“It is a historic investment in this region … the largest private investment in the history of southern Arizona,” said South32 Hermosa President Pat Risner.


The zinc deposit is part of the larger Hermosa proposal, which also involves mining manganese and building a processing plant — largely on private land — in a historical mining district in Santa Cruz County near the U.S.-Mexico border. Part of the project will disturb lands within the Coronado National Forest. Local opponents of the mine have raised questions about its water usage and potential harm to endangered species.