BIG BAY - Workers at the Kennecott Eagle Mine in Michigamme Township contained and cleaned up a spill of roughly 100 gallons of hydrochloric acid this morning, which leaked from a faulty valve into a containment area.
The incident occurred in an isolated storage area of the nickel and copper mine's water treatment plant, where chemicals used in the water treatment process, including the hydrochloric acid, are stored.
Kennecott officials said no injuries were reported. As a precaution, a dozen workers were evacuated from the mine's underground facilities and another two to four employees were removed from the water treatment plant.
"Our team responded promptly and our environmental safeguards worked properly to protect the environment," said Kennecott President Adam Burley.
The leak was detected by workers at about 5 a.m. and the acid was immediately contained within the sealed area. The acid was neutralized with another chemical and was cleaned up by 1 p.m., according to Kennecott.
Powell Township Fire Department personnel were on site standing by as a precaution.
Kennecott Communications and Media Relations Advisor Dan Blondeau said because of the relatively small size of the spill, estimated at 75 to 100 gallons, and because it occurred in an area designed to capture leaks, the spill is not required to be reported to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.But Blondeau said Kennecott planned to inform the agency anyway.
"Any spill, any leak is serious," Blondeau said. "But with precautions in place, the system did what it was supposed to do."
Because the leak occurred in the contained area, mine officials were "not overly concerned" about potential environmental damage, Blondeau said.
The container for the acid has a detection system to alert workers to leaks.
Blondeau said the mine's employees discovered the spill independently.
Kennecott officials said the neutralized acid will be returned to the water treatment system.
Blondeau said this was the first spill to occur at the Eagle Mine or Kennecott's Humboldt Mill.