Eagle Mine officials weigh in at forum

Eagle Mine Manager of External Affairs Matt Johnson, seated, right, answers an audience question as the company Social Responsibility Adviser Meagan Morrison, standing, left, looks on during a community forum at the Eagle Mine Information Center in Marquette on Monday. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — Dozens of people attended a community forum Monday to hear the latest information on Eagle Mine at the company’s Marquette information center.

The forum — one of a series of four across Marquette County — gave updates on Eagle Mine operations and addressed residents’ questions and concerns.

Eagle Mine, a subsidiary of the Canada-based Lundin Mining Corp., is located in northern Michigamme Township. It is the nation’s only primary nickel mine.

Presenters touched on the progress of the Eagle East project, several permit requests previously submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a possible expansion at the Humboldt Mill processing facility, and the company’s ongoing exploration efforts.

The company submitted several permit requests to the DEQ in 2017. One of those, the permit to mine the Eagle East ore body, was approved in November.

The company began construction of a dual decline tunnel from the Eagle Mine to the Eagle East ore body in July 2016.

The tunnel to the second ore deposit, which is about 1.25 miles east of the Eagle Mine and 2,000 feet below it, will take three years from start to finish to construct, said Eagle Mine Social Responsibility Adviser Meagen Morrison.

“We have all of the permits in place to actually mine that one,” Morrison said of the Eagle East site.

The company will be working on definition drilling at the site from now through September, she said.

“So currently what we have been doing is all the drilling has been from the surface, drilling down over 3,000 feet,” Morrison said. “So now that we have the tunnel started to get down there, we can start doing drilling from underground. This really just allows the computer model that we use to just fill in some of the gaps. We did the same definition drilling to Eagle and added over a year to the life of Eagle.”

She said the grade of ore in Eagle East is very similar to the grade that currently comes from the Eagle Mine.

The explorations include a seismic survey of the area around the Eagle Mine to determine if there are other locations that would be viable for mining.

“The best place to look for more ore is where you know you already have some,” Morrison said. “They drill holes in the ground and put a charge in there and then blast that, and it looks like the ground kind of makes a hiccup and they are able to detect the geologic formation and other information for the seismic survey.”

Chris Schwartz, president of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council, expressed concern over how much of the ground surface would be disturbed by the project.

Eagle Mine Exploration Manager Bob Mahin said there is little to no surface disturbance as a result of the charges.

“All the disturbance comes from walking through the woods and drilling these holes,” Mahin said.

The company also began aerial surveys of 14,000 acres near Covington and Sidnaw last week, Mahin said.

Lundin was granted a lease for the area in the fall of 2017.

Morrison said requests still being reviewed by the DEQ include water and groundwater discharge permits and one to change the Humboldt Mill tailings disposal permit to accommodate additional tailing from the Eagle Mine and Eagle East operations.