The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Highland Copper raises $25 million as purchase of White Pine mine nears


Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

ROSS GRUNWALD, project manager for the Highland Copper Company's White Pine project, presents information on company plans Thursday evening at Gogebic Community College.

IRONWOOD - Highland Copper Company's plans to acquire the former White Pine mine received a $25 million jolt this week, according to the project manager.

Ross Grunwald told about 30 people attending a Thursday night session on plans to mine near the former mine that the money was raised by stock sales on Wednesday.

As of Sept. 30, the company had only $4.3 million in cash on hand.

The $25 million will go to exploration and development of Highland's Upper Mineral projects, including the one at White Pine and two in the eastern U.P.

Grunwald said papers may be signed next week to finalize the deal to acquire the mine from First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian company. Highland Copper has signed a letter of intent to acquire the former mine.

It was Highland Copper's second area meeting on its plans to purchase the idle mine in White Pine.

About 115 people attended a previous public meeting in Ontonagon.

Grunwald said a mine at White Pine would be northeast of the previously mined area.

The last mining at White Pine was in 1994.

"It's an entirely new operation," Grunwald said.

The old mine workings have filled with water and the company has no plans to remove that water.

Highland Copper and its subsidiary, Keweenaw Copper, are also looking at possible mining in other U.P. site, including Bald Mountain, north of Ironwood, where drilling took place this summer.

Grunwald said the copper formation right next to Lake Superior is valuable, with copper being used in so many products, and the formation has been "neglected for many years."

White Pine shut down because copper prices were low, but they have rebounded.

Grunwald said a smelter would cost from $300 million to $400 million and that's why mines ship out their ore to be processed.

Most of teh questions at the Ironwood session were about which company would actually mine the copper at White Pine.

Grunwald said Highland Copper doesn't currently operate any mines. He said the company could develop the mine for another company or operate it on its own, however.

He said the acquisition process could take two years and whether or not permits from the former operation could be transferred is being studied.

He said tailings might be placed back in the former mine holes.

Grunwald said there would be no acid leaching of pillars in the old mine and no attempt to recover copper from current tailings.

He said the mine would be at least a 30-year operation, but with more exploration, could span as much as 100 years.

He said the raising of the $25 million this week shows, "We're here for the long-term." He added, "We want to put as many U.P. residents to work as possible."

Answering a question from the audience at Gogebic Community College, he said his company has no ties to Chris Cline or Gogebic Taconite, which is planning a mine near Upson, Wis.

The Canadian-based company said it will schedule many more public meetings on its plans to reopen the mine.

The company works out of an office in Calumet.


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