ONTONAGON - One hundred and fifteen people braved subzero weather to attend an informational meeting of Highland Copper Company, which is on target to purchase the White Pine Copper Mine in White Pine.
Ross Grundwall, vice president of exploration for Highland introduced the company to the community. He described the history of copper exploration in the area, including White Pine, and presented maps indicating where the present deposits of copper are located. He said the company is excited to be in the area.
Grundwall said the company is focused on exploring and developing copper projects in the Keweenaw Copper Province within the Upper Peninsula. The company, which is publicly traded on the Toronto market, employs 21, including eight geologists, mostly graduates of Michigan Technological University, engineers and on-site consultants.
Grundwall said the company wants to be as "transparent" as possible and distributed a survey asking what topics the public would like to discuss at the next information session.
Grundwall said the continuing importance of copper includes the need for the metal in green technology such as wind, solar, electric cars and cell phones.
He said the first objective is to validate the historic mineral resource estimate of 144,904,000 short tons of copper. This will be done by drilling next to the present drill holes to determine the amount and quality of the copper. The timeline for 2013 includes drilling, environmental due diligence, developing an exploration data base and validating the historic data.
Grundwall said they expect to sign the purchase document, drill and confirm the expected deposit in the north area of the mine and engineer scoping studies for further development.
"We have no plans to de-water the old mine," he said, although they could create a new entrance. He called the White Pine and Copperwood the "Big Dog deposits" with a future of sustainability.
The company hopes to explore and create new wealth by mining development and moving to production. But he warned that reopening the mine would take huge investments in a mill, smelter and other areas. He said it will take "millions of dollars."
The company must determine if the present permits are transferable. Grunwald said the power plant in White Pine is a great advantage. Exploration and financial backing were both stressed.
Grundwall answered many questions from the audience, many of whom worked at White Pine before its closure.
Following the meeting Carlos Bertoni, project manager for the White Pine project said the company will have many meetings to further explain the project.
"I will be here very often," he said, "we are anxious to have the community know what we are doing."
He said Highland Copper will be very careful in their drilling and work with a detailed mitigation system.