[Michigan mining] U.P. mines seeing a resurgence as companies hope to cash in – by Tina Lam (Detroit Free Press – Novmeber 27, 2011)

Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/

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BIG BAY — In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it’s drill, baby, drill. The drilling that began there in September is not for oil, but for gold, silver, copper and nickel. In a resurgence of mining in the region whose mineral heyday was more than a century ago, foreign companies are finding rich bodies of ore they hope to mine for billions of dollars.

New technology and higher prices for metals are making mining profitable again, spurred by increases in demand for high-tech gadgets such as smartphones, kitchens full of stainless steel appliances and hybrid cars — all of which use the metals that can be found in the U.P.

Three new mines are either under way or planned, with more possible. Also, an abandoned mill to process ore is expected to reopen. Mineral rights on more than 1 million of the U.P.’s 7 million acres have been leased by companies prospecting for metals.

The new mines are less than a football field away from streams, rivers or Lake Superior, and environmental groups say the risks of contamination from acidic rock waste are high and that the state has too few resources to be a proper watchdog.

“I’m not anti-mine, I’m anti-mining pollution,” said Marla Tuinstra, a writer and retired dairy farmer near Stephenson, where an open pit gold mine is planned.

For struggling towns hungry for tax revenue and jobs, the mines are an answer to their prayers.

John Cox is supervisor of Wakefield Township, where a new copper mine is planned not far from the White Pine Mine, which closed 15 years ago.

“This is the best news we’ve had for years,” he said.

Rush is on as mining firms scour U.P. for deposits

BIG BAY — The scream of hydraulic drills against bare rock echoes through the underground tunnel in the Eagle Mine. Dark figures are silhouetted against daylight at the tunnel’s entrance.

For international mining giant Rio Tinto, that light is symbolic: It’s the end of a 10-year push to start the mine — the nation’s first primary nickel mine and the first new mine in the Upper Peninsula in decades.

With its tunnel growing deeper at the rate of 12 feet per day, a Lansing judge on Wednesday cleared the mine’s path completely, dismissing a lawsuit that challenged its permits.

Other mining firms see Eagle’s start as a signal to push forward. Orvana Minerals, based in Toronto, has submitted a permit application for Copperwood, an underground copper mine near Wakefield in the U.P. And a third firm is preparing its application for Back Forty, an open pit gold, zinc and copper mine near Stephenson.

The rush is on.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Detroit Free Press website: http://www.freep.com/article/20111127/NEWS05/111270455/U-P-mines-seeing-a-resurgence-as-companies-hope-to-cash-in?odyssey=tab%7Cmostpopular%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE