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Bergman, Dianda tour White Pine Copper Refinery


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U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman and state Rep. Scott Dianda toured the White Pine Copper Refinery recently, as the facility and its parent company PM Power Group explores new ways to extract copper. Among those on the tour were, from left, PM Power Group COO Zachary Halkola, PM Power Group President Brent Zettl, Bergman and Dianda.

WHITE PINE - U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) and state Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) had the opportunity to tour the White Pine Copper Refinery last week, as the company that owns the refinery is considering ways to produce copper from new sources that could bring jobs to the region.

The company that owns the refinery, PM Power Group, is exploring making copper cathodes from copper sources that haven't been used before and conducting tests to determine the economic viability of extracting the copper from these sources.

The current facility is fully permitted and has 720 cells, according to a company news release, which can produce upwards of 3 million pounds of copper cathode annually.

The company's current business plans being developed said the potential project would create an additional 15 jobs in White Pine. However, this could increase if the company is able to access additional resources.

"If other opportunities arise, such as processing copper from stamp sands in the Keweenaw around Gay, Mich., it could create an opportunity to modify the existing tankhouse to handle significantly more cells and could create significant, additional employment for the area," a company spokesperson said in the release.

If the company would be able to use the sand - which is the byproduct from an ongoing dredging project - it would find a way to utilize something that is otherwise waste, according to the release.

The Environmental Protection Agency has provided funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to removed 205,000 cubic yards of stamp sand in an effort to provide protection for Buffalo Reef, located off the Keweenaw Peninsula.

"(The refinery) is of the opinion that if any permanent cleanup of the Keweenaw stamp sands is to occur, the ... facility in White Pine could be a key asset to extract any remaining copper from those sands prior to putting them into a permanent resting place. Any cleanup of the Keweenaw stamp sands will need federal economic assistance, which is why we invited Representative Bergman to the site for a tour," PM Power Group's COO, Zachary Halkola, said in the release.

If the company was able to use the stamp sands, the release said there is a potential for additional uses after the copper is extracted - such as permanently storing the final sand material in the neighboring White Pine mine, which a company spokesperson called "an environmentally ideal solution."

"The work being done at the White Pine facility is exactly what we as a community need to be investing in. I will continue to engage with local and state partners to find new ways to support continued job growth in the region," Dianda said in the release.

If the company succeeds in tapping into these previously unused sources, it has the potential to become increasingly valuable as the release said new sources of copper around the world are becoming more difficult to find.

-Richard Jenkins


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