MTU shares mine repurposing report with Negaunee

Timothy Scarlett

NEGAUNEE — A team of Michigan Technological University staff and students met last week at Negaunee High School to discuss a potential reuse of the Mather B Mine as an underground pump-hydroelectric energy storage space.

The meeting was open to area residents to ask questions and give feedback to the MTU faculty who are interested in creating a final report that addresses common questions and concerns.

“(The meeting went) about three hours, longer than expected,” Associate Professor Timothy Scarlett said. “We were planning to talk from 2-3 (p.m.) and settle in for conversations from 3-4. While the audience was small, they had lots to say, so we were talking about questions and ideas for quite awhile.”

Scarlett is an anthropologist and archaeologist. His background is valuable in understanding the history, size and shape of the facility, which allows for estimates in energy storage capacities.

“I explained where the information is stored — mostly at the Cliffs Shaft Museum and an archive run by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in Gwinn, along with community memory of those elders who used to work at the mine in the 1960s and 1970s,” Scarlett said.

The other speakers at the event were:

≤ Roman Sidortsov — The principal investigator and a scholar of energy and environmental policy and law.

≤ Jacob Chizek — An undergraduate student in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics.

≤ Shardul Tiwari — A Ph.D. student in environmental and energy policy at MTU. Tiwari is also an engineer and economist and he has contributed greatly to this study, crunching the numbers to figure out if the different design scenarios could be profitable in the context of energy markets in Michigan.

≤ David Watkins — A professor in civil and environmental engineering. He is an expert in water resources planning and management, environmental systems analysis, and sustainability.

≤ Ana Dyreson — A central part of the team. She is a mechanical engineer with expertise in power plant modeling, electrical grid integration and modeling, and climate and energy.

This group of MTU students and faculty covered an introduction to the project, covering legal regulations for many organizations, talked about water testing for contaminants and the variety of ample sights.

“Chizek has been working with the old maps to build a digital 3D model of the mine’s workings,” Scarlett said. “To help me with the size and design issues. He spoke briefly to explain his model and showed the full model to people later during the Q&A.”

The group of engineers and scientists have been studying this potential reuse of the mine since 2019.

“We are pressed to get the final report out to the public and expect to do so very soon,” Scarlett said. “We gave a public presentation about the results, and as soon as the report draft is ready, we’ll provide it to the city staff for their review and feedback, then quickly turn around any needed tweaks so the report can be released to the general public.

“We expect the whole thing to be out by mid-September.”

Katie Segula can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is ksegula@miningjournal.net.


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