TAMARACK, Minn. — A proposed copper mine in northeast Minnesota appears to have fresh legs with a new company buying into the project.
Talon Metals Corp. is buying at least 30 percent of the Tamarack project from Kennecott Mining to develop the copper-nickel-platinum mine near the small town of Tamarack along the Aitkin-Carlton county line.
Talon said it also has a “potential pathway” to take over 100 percent of the project if Kennecott chooses not to develop the mine. Talon will pay $7.5 million for the initial 30 percent stake in the Tamarack project and has agreed to spend another $30 million for additional exploration during the next three years.
Utah-based Kennecott has spent the past 14 years obtaining mineral rights and drilling test borings across the boggy terrain located about 45 miles west of Duluth, but the project had been on the back burner for several years with little or no activity.
It’s not clear what Talon’s entry will mean for the project, which is still in the exploratory stage, but additional test drilling is set to start later this month.
Officials with British Virgin Island-based Talon recently said some 124,700 feet, or 23.7 miles, of drill core samples from the area have been analyzed with geologists estimating more than 10 million tons of mineable ore below.
Talon officials say the copper and other valuable minerals are roughly 1,000 to 1,500 feet below the surface and that the mine “will be an underground mine, if it is able to get through Minnesota’s exacting permitting process,” according to London-based investment analysts Proactive Investments.
Talon announced it has nearly $12 million in cash and has paid its first $1 million installment to Kennecott as part of the three-year buy-in agreement.
Warren Newfield, Talon chairman, said his company had been looking worldwide for a new mining project to dig into.
“We are fortunate to participate in Kennecott’s Tamarack project,” Newfield said in a prepared statement announcing the deal. “Over the past two years, the Talon team has reviewed and considered more than 700 projects, and we have finally identified a project that could be a company maker. … We expect the next three years to be an exciting time for Talon.”
Proactive suggests the Tamarack project may face somewhat less hostility than other proposed Minnesota copper mine proposals, such as the Twin Metals underground mine proposed east of Ely.
“Tamarack is in an area where the watershed is towards the Mississippi and should not suffer so many environmental objections as (Twin Metals) where the ground drains into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness,” Proactive said.
Still, there was vocal opposition to the Tamarack project for nearly a decade. In 2006, Kennecott filed suit against Aitkin County officials who tried to limit exploration by denying a conditional use permit. Kennecott eventually prevailed in court.
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