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Twin Metals finds larger than expected deposits near BWCA

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Already expected to be the largest underground mine in Minnesota history and one of the largest untapped copper-nickel deposits in the world, Twin Metals officials today announced that the deposit of valuable minerals at their proposed mine near Ely and partially in Lake County is even bigger than previously stated.

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The company said the confirmed and potential deposits are about 19 percent larger than forecast in the previous corporate report issued in June.

In addition to huge deposits of copper and nickel, the company said the proposed mine now is expected to be the largest source of platinum and palladium outside South Africa.

The latest consultant's report "continues to confirm the significance of the Twin Metals deposits on a global scale and provides important information for the project's ongoing planning and development," Andres Morel, chief executive officer of Twin Metals Minnesota, said in a statement released today. "Based on these increasing resource estimates Twin Metals is confident we can have a positive, long-term economic impact on the region, sparking significant long-term job creation and sustainable economic development in communities across the Iron Range and northern Minnesota.

Ian Kimmer, Northern Communities Program Director for Friends of the Boundary Waters, wasn't surprised by the news. He said that, although the Friends organization isn't anti-mining, they are urging caution, especially because the mine is only three miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness. They also want to inform citizens about the risks associated with this type of mining.

"The bigger the mine, the bigger the risk," Kimmer said. "(Our) big hope is that they're going to play by the rules and...we (will) do everything we can to protect our water resources and wilderness from the devastating problems these mines have caused in the past."

Twin Metals' website says they "(strive) to be a leader in environmental stewardship by performing above strict state and federal regulations and community expectations for environmental stewardship."

Twin Metals Minnesota, LLC, is a joint venture 60 percent owned by Canadian-based Duluth Metals Limited and 40 percent by global mining company Antofagasta PLC.

Twin Metals was in the field this year collecting baseline environmental data across 32,000 acres on which they hold mineral rights for what geologists say is a jackpot discovery of minerals. That data -- on water quality, plants, animals and more -- will be used for future environmental review to measure how the project will be regulated.

The company formally announced in March that it has instructed its engineering contractor to draw up plans for an 80,000-ton-per-day mine and processing plant, putting Twin Metals on par with the largest mines in the world.

Company officials have said the so-called Nokomis project along Minnesota Highway 1 near the Kawishiwi River is expected to cost nearly $3 billion, one of the state's largest private enterprises, and could employ more than 1,000 people.

By comparison, PolyMet is proposing a $600 million open-pit mine and concentrating center near Hoyt Lakes employing about 350 people.

Twin Metals constructed a new office building in Ely last year and also has offices in St. Paul and Babbitt. The company has 40 direct and 120 contract employees on the job. Twin Metals will have a preliminary project description finished late this summer.

The mine's so-called "pre-feasibility" study is expected in 2013 with a mining plan possible late next year. Formal environmental review could begin in 2014.

PolyMet is expecting formal environmental review to conclude next year for its open-pit mine and processing center.

Reporter LaReesa Sandretsky contributed to this report.

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