The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Highland Copper reignites possibility of UP mining

 

December 26, 2017

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

HIGHLAND COPPER'S Sylvain Collard talks to the Ironwood-Hurley Rotary Club Wednesday at the group's meeting at the Elk and Hound in Ironwood Township. Collard discussed the progress Highland has made in developing a copper mine in northern Gogebic County, where construction could start as early as the second half of 2018.

Editor's note: The Daily Globe is counting down the Gogebic Range's top five stories of 2017 each day this week. The editorial department staff sat down and came up with its annual list, naming Highland Copper's effort to resume copper mining in the western Upper Peninusla. as the fifth-place story of the year.

By RICHARD JENKINS

rjenkins@yourdailyglobe.com

Those wanting to see the return of copper mining to the western Upper Peninsula were excited to hear the news of Highland Copper's efforts to develop mines in the region - including Gogebic and Ontonagon counties.

Based on the information presented over the past year, construction of a mine in northern Gogebic County could begin as early as the second half of 2018 and generate as many as 600 jobs during the construction phase and 300 jobs once mining operations begin.

The year began with Highland starting test drilling in the Porcupine Mountains State Park in February, and while a warm-up would halt the drilling, work would resume near, but not in, the park in mid-March until erosion became an issue in April.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would later cite the company for the erosion's impact on the wetland areas near the Porcupine Mountains. Highland officials told the Daily Globe they expected an announcement from the MDEQ regarding the citation's resolution at the end of this year or early in January.

February would also see Highland get a new CEO, Denis Miville-Deschenes. His experience includes working on 14 underground or open pit mining projects on three continents.

The company made big news locally at a press conference in March.

It provided a more in-depth explanations of plans for the future and provided locals with insight on the possible impact the company's plans could have on the region.

Among the news shared at the meeting was that the Copperwood Project in northern Wakefield and Ironwood Townships would be the company's first priority, followed by its White Pine project.

"Copperwood is the fastest (project) to put into production, it requires less capital," Miville-Deschenes said at the press conference. "The minute we get some cash flow, we want to use that to develop White Pine."

Construction on the Copperwood mine could begin as early as the second half of 2018, once an update of the project's feasibility study is completed. The update is fully funded and expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2018.

If the company is able to stick with its timeline, Miville-Deschenes said mining could begin in late 2020 and early 2021.

With the Copperwood and White Pine projects in various stages of development, the company extended its project pipeline in June with the announcement of a land acquisition in the central and western U.P.

Known as the company's UPX Properties, the purchase includes land around Ludin Mining Corporation's Eagle Mine.

Highland purchased the 447,842 acres in Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon, Dickinson, Marquette and Iron counties for $18 million.

Over the summer, various local governments in Gogebic County took steps to help the company's effort to develop the Copperwood Project, passing resolutions in support of increased state funding to upgrade County Road 519.

The work on the 15 miles of road between Wakefield and the mine site is needed to handle the increased truck traffic from the mine.

In recognition of the company's focus on the Copperwood Project, it moved its headquarters from White Pine to Wakefield on Aug. 28.

The company's confidence in the viability of the Copperwood Project has only increased in the time since its March press conference. A resource estimate announced in October indicated there was more copper at the site than previously believed.

"There's more copper within the permitted footprint than previously reported because of the additional drilling we did this past winter," Tim Lynott, financing manager for Highland's Michigan operation, said at the time.

He said the new figures aren't so much a discovery as the company's additional drilling has given it enough new data to update the previous 2015 resource estimate.

The company capped off the year with a presentation to the local Rotary Club Wednesday.

The timeline for moving forward with the Copperwood Project remains on track, according to Sylvain Collard, general manager with Highland. Collard said at the meeting that, if anything, the company is likely going to try and speed up its timeline.

Collard also discussed what makes Highland different from past companies - such as Orvana Copper, which Highland bought the Copperwood Project from. Among the reasons are Highland Copper's more diverse and experienced group of investors and its extended pipeline of projects, such as the White Pine North and UPX projects that will be developed as Copperwood gets off the ground.

According to Collard's presentation, three shareholders - Greenstone Resources, Osisko Gold Royalties and Orion Mine Finance - have almost a 48 percent stake in the company, all of which have experience in developing fledgling mining operations.

"This is what they do," Lynott told the Daily Globe Thursday, adding the key shareholders have indicated they are willing to participate in the next phase of the Copperwood Project once the feasibility study is complete.

 
 

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