By JAN TUCKER
White Pine — Refinery operations could begin as soon as the first quarter of 2021 with the announcement Wednesday that Northern Initiatives has received a $700,000 grant award to support Phase 2 development of the White Pine Refinery at the former White Pine Mine.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Community Services made the announcement as part of its Community Economic Development Program.
The White Pine Copper Refinery Inc. and PM Power Group own and operate an industrial-scale copper refinery facility with the capability to refine and reprocess 170,000,000 pounds of copper cathode annually. With those funds, PM Group will bring the existing electro-metal electrowinning pilot plant to full scale production, according to a news release from Northern Initiatives.
This will enable the company to reclaim copper along with other precious and rare earth metals from material removed, recovered and-or diverted from landfills and other copper rich waste, the release said, adding the ultimate goal is to become a zero-waste facility at both ends of the production.
“Essentially what we will be doing is taking environmental waste and creating pure copper cylinders for sale into the market,” said Zack Halkola, PM Power Group COO. “We are taking landfill diverted materials and copper-containing recyclable by-products from industry in our installed and permitted assets in White Pine to recycle a commodity that everyone needs.”
The project is expected to retain or create a minimum of 35 jobs in Ontonagon County, which is in desperate need of jobs as the county has one of the highest unemployment rates in Michigan. Job creation is one of the requirements of the CED grant program. Also in compliance with the loan, those jobs are expected to be filled by low income individuals, said the NI release.
Northern Initiatives will loan the funds to PM Power Group and when repaid will create more lendable capital for similar projects.
JR Richardson of the PM Power Group, applauded the action. He said the design and installation of necessary equipment will begin at once with expectation that the refinery will be “on line in the first quarter of 2021.” He added that he is “glad when business partners with the state and Northern Initiatives in projects such as this.”
NI President Elissa Sangalli said, “It’s really a win for everyone. But for NI, we see this as a triple bottom line success. Helping low-income individuals gain meaningful employment, supporting a clean environment through the reuse of landfill waste, and building a robust local economy in Ontonagon County is how we strive to invest with sustainable impact.”