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Eagle Mine operations to extend into 2025

MARQUETTE — A “significant discovery” has been made at the Eagle Mine which will extend the operation’s life-of-mine into 2025.

According to an Eagle Mine release issued Friday, underground infill and extension drilling, which is used to more closely define the size of an ore body, “has increased the Eagle East mineral reserve estimate to 2.3 million tonnes (metric tons) at 3.2 percent nickel and 2.6 percent copper.”

The announcement ensures jobs for about 400 mine employees and local contractors into mid-2025.

Eagle Mine is an underground, high-grade nickel and copper mine located in Michigamme Township. Eagle has been in operation since 2014 as the first mine to be permitted under Michigan’s Part 632 Non-Ferrous Mineral Mining Law, the release states. 

During an interview on Friday, Eagle Mine Manager of External Relations Matt Johnson said the drilling has been going on for roughly a year in the course of constructing a dual decline tunnel from the Eagle Mine to the Eagle East ore body.

“Once we got close to the Eagle East ore body, which essentially took two years from 2016 to 2018,” Johnson said, “then we were able to put underground drill rigs to do definition ore drilling at the ore body.”

He said the company’s $107 million investment infrastructure that allows access to Eagle East, which includes $5 million for the infill drilling, was one of several factors that led to the extension of Eagle’s life-of-mine.

“Through the exploration team, who found Eagle East, and the mining team, (who are) responsible to execute the infill drilling which has been extremely successful over the past year,” Johnson said, “we are announcing here today (an) added year and a half to Eagle’s mine life. But also, we have been able to add a little bit of time over the years by having an efficient operation. And that really goes back to the dedicated 400 employees and contractors that have found ways to run our business more efficiently to continually look for improvement projects. When we are able to capitalize on that, we are able to have an efficient operation and mine lower grade ore that also extends the mine life.”

Kristen Mariuzza, managing director at Eagle Mine, echoed the sentiment.

“The announcement today is a direct result of the dedication and hard work of Eagle’s 400 employees and contractors,” Mariuzza said. “It is exciting to be part of a successful operation and we look forward to celebrating the extension of our mine life.”

The increased mine life does not require any additional construction to existing facilities, nor will it require any new permits with either the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

“Due to the fact that we have already permitted Eagle East, the additional ore that we found that is part of the Eagle East ore body does not require any changes in permits or construction at the surface facilities,” Johnson said. “Our existing tailings facility (in Humboldt) is permitted to handle any additional ore that we’ve announced in our life-of-mine extension.”

He said the company will continue underground infill drilling until “it’s not economical to do it.”

“It will come to an end; there are only so many little sections you can find before you are done,” Johnson said. “The Eagle Mine has been in operation since 2014, so we have been in operation for five years and with this life-of-mine announcement we have another six years to go.

“So, in essence, we are not even halfway there. It’s pretty exciting to be part of a project that the original mine life was seven to eight years and now we have been able to expand that to 11 years, in total.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.