The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Wakefield Township continues to support mining effort


July 14, 2018


Wakefield TOWNSHIP — The Wakefield Township board of trustees on Tuesday expressed its continued support for Highland Copper’s effort to develop a mine in the township.

Wakefield Township Supervisor John Cox said the support will extend to the upcoming Michigan Department of Environmental Quality public hearing regarding several permits for the company’s Copperwood Project in northern Ironwood and Wakefield townships.

“All five of our board members will be there and we’ll be standing together. I’ll be making a statement,” Cox told the Daily Globe Thursday.

The hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday in the upper-level conference room of the Lindquist Student and Conference Center at Gogebic Community College.

Cox said the hearing is to deal with three permits Copperwood is seeking. Two of those are essentially renewing permits originally issued to Orvana when it was trying to develop the mine site, according to Cox, while the third deals with a request to use Lake Superior water as part of the mine’s operations.

Cox said he supports the plan, as he had concerns alternatives could threaten the township water supply.

“In our townships, we’re on private wells and if they go dry because you’re sucking too much water from one big source — we were a little concerned about that. This takes that concern away,” Cox said. “There’s plenty of water in Lake Superior, obviously. It’s way overflowing its banks and causing erosion and loss of properties and everything else. They’re not taking that much out.”

Highland Copper officials gave a short presentation at Tuesday’s meeting on the future of the Copperwood site and the other projects the company is exploring.

Cox said one of the big takeaways was the impact development of a new mine could have on the surrounding communities.

A recently completed feasibility study for the project estimated it could create 400 or more jobs in the area, with production scheduled to begin in 2021.

“What our board felt was important was the jobs that were going to be created and the revenue that they’re going to create when they start mining,” Cox said.

Municipalities would receive a severance tax from the company, according to Cox, that depended on the amount of material being mined.

“When the tons are up, we get more money, and when the tons are down, we get less money,” Cox said. “And when the mine quits, we don’t get any money, except probably on the buildings and stuff that is left there.”

In other action:

—The board heard a report on the progress of work done on township roads. Cox said the Gogebic County Road Commission and township combined to spend $111,770 on township roads this year, including spending $24,662 to patch and temporarily repair County Road 519 until it can be rebuilt in the next few years. Work was also done on Indianhead Road, Old U.S. 2 and Samson Road, as well as other locations.

—The board discussed the potential closure of Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco, which Cox said could have a very negative effect on the community. He said the township will be writing a letter to state officials urging them to keep the prison open.

—The township will work with the city of Wakefield to build a small trailhead in the city for all-terrain vehicles.

—The board renewed the township’s insurance policy, but decided against adding coverage for legal costs if someone challenged the township’s zoning ordinance.

—The board extended a permit phone and other utility companies need to access the township’s right-of-ways.


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